The bread wheat Lr34 adult plant rust resistance gene confers seedling resistance in durum wheat
The Lr34 resistance gene from Triticum aestivum encodes a putative ABC transporter protein that confers broad spectrum, partial adult plant resistance to all three rusts species and powdery mildew. It has remained a durable source of resistance for over 100 years in which time no increased virulence towards Lr34 has been observed. This gene is located on chromosome 7D and consequently cannot be readily transferred to durum wheat by traditional breeding. A transgenic approach was used to transfer Lr34 to durum wheat cultivar Stewart by Agrobacterium transformation. Homozygous progeny from a number of independent Stewart lines expressing Lr34 under regulatory control of its endogenous promoter showed high levels of rust resistance at the seedling stage. A correlation between seedling resistance and transgene expression levels was observed in these plants. In contrast seedlings from a near isogenic line of hexaploid wheat cultivar Thatcher containing Lr34 showed only a minor difference in rust growth when compared with Thatcher seedlings, typical of this adult plant resistance gene in hexaploid wheat. Little is known about how the Lr34 gene product functions; however, the seedling resistance of these durum transgenics enables functional assays to be readily undertaken without the need for adult plant material. By infecting seedlings we have shown that day length has an effect on Lr34 resistance to leaf rust, with higher levels of resistance observed under long days (16 h light) compared with short days (8 h light). This study demonstrates that Lr34 provides strong and presumably durable seedling resistance to rust in durum plants that can be used to further understand how this gene confers resistance.