Rapid detection of micro-RNAs associated with APR to rust pathogens in wheat

The identification of R-genes using traditional map-based approaches is a long, laborious process, not to mention the time required for subsequent development of cultivars incorporating the new resistances. Breeders seek to reduce the length of breeding cycles, and researchers require new tools to accelerate discovery and understanding of mechanisms associated with durable resistance, especially adult plant resistance (APR). A new method for rapid generation advancement, known as ‘speed breeding’, significantly reduces the length of breeding cycles, provide increased recombination during line development and enable selection in early generations. The speed breeding protocol uses controlled temperature regimes and 24h light to accelerate plant growth and development. Phenotyping methods adapted for use in the speed breeding system permit year-round evaluation of APR to rust pathogens within 5 weeks from time of sowing. RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) technology has revolutionized gene expression profiling in plants. We previously used RNAseq to identify novel transcripts and miRNAs associated with seedling resistance (Lr28) leading to identification of transcription factors and miRNA families (e.g. miR36, miR37 and miR39) involved in signalling and defense response (Kumar et al. J. Nuc. Acids 2014:570176). In this study we report the application of speed breeding and RNAseq technologies for the purpose of rapidly identifying transcripts and miRNA associated with APR. Wheat landraces harbouring novel sources of resistance were grown under speed breeding conditions and sampled for RNA at key growth stages, before and after inoculation, which enabled discovery of differentially expressed miRNAs. Our next steps are aimed at validating these genetic factors associated with APR in order to better understand the signalling pathways and deliver tools to assist the assembly of robust wheat cultivars for the future.

The University of Queensland, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, Australia
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