A systematic genetic and genomics approach to achieve durable rust resistances in wheat
Most rust resistant genes in wheat are race-specific (R), with relatively few genes conferring resistance only at the adult stage that have been described as slow rusting genes (APR). Pyramiding multiple R, APR or APR+R genes has been used successfully over many years to achieve durable rust resistance. To further enhance this strategy, a genetic genomics approach was exploited to identify genes with different resistant mechanisms and the most effective gene pyramids.
Several new combinations of rust genes were created and tested in the Thatcher background, revealing synergistic ("booster") effects involving Lr21 with Lr16. With QTL mapping approach, we found that genes combined from 7D, 1B and 7B conferred an almost immune response to leaf rust, while genes from 7D, 1B and 3B provided an almost immune response to stripe rust. With a genomics approach, a large scale transcriptome analysis was conducted on key rust resistant genes including six R genes, three APR genes and one gene pyramid with Lr34+Lr16 over a time series during the infection process of both seedlings and adult plants. Detailed transcriptome analysis of gene expression associated with different major and minor leaf rust genes, alone or in combination, identified common and unique aspects of defense responses. For example, Lr9 is different from the other three leaf rust genes tested, with resistance triggered at a very early stage, consistent with pre-haustorial resistance. R genes Lr21 and Lr16 were also significantly different compared to other R and APR genes. With gene co-expression network analysis, a shared unique gene module mediated by Lr34 and Lr67 was also identified. This large transcriptome dataset also allowed the development of a rust-wheat interactome atlas for rust functional genomics research in wheat.