The Lr34/Yr18 gene has been used in agriculture for more than 100 years. In contrast to many other resistance sources against leaf rust and stripe rust, it has remained effective and no virulence has been reported. This makes Lr34 a unique and highly valuable resource for rust resistance breeding. The pleiotropic nature of the gene conferring partial resistance to different pathogen species, the associated leaf tip necrosis and its durability suggest a molecular mechanism that is different from major gene resistance. This is supported by the molecular nature of Lr34 which was recently found to encode an ABC transporter. Interestingly, all tested wheat lines contain an allele of the Lr34 gene on chromosome 7DS. In its susceptible form, the gene does not confer resistance. The difference between the encoded resistant and susceptible LR34 isoforms consists of only two amino acid changes, whereas the rest of the proteins are identical. These two changes must change the biochemical properties of the resistant LR34 transporter in such a way that the plant becomes resistant. We speculate that there is a slight conformational change in the resistant form of the protein, resulting either in modified specificity or kinetics of the transported molecule, or that the binding properties to an unknown second protein interacting with LR34 are changed, resulting in altered function. While the molecular nature of the molecule(s) transported by the LR34 protein remains unclear, it is likely that a physiological change related to Lr34 activity is at the basis of resistance. We are currently establishing transgenic approaches in heterologous grass species to further investigate the molecular activity of Lr34 and to better understand a physiological mechanisms resulting in disease resistance.
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Leaf rust (caused by Puccinia triticina) continues to be the most important and widespread foliar disease of wheat in the Southern Cone. The P. triticina population of the region is extremely dynamic, leading to short-lived resistance in commercial cultivars. Some high yielding materials susceptible to leaf rust have been released and their increasing cultivation relies on fungicide applications to control leaf rust. The most important challenge of breeding programs in the Southern Cone is to incorporate durable leaf rust resistance in high yielding cultivars. These cultivars must also combine resistance to other relevant diseases and meet industrial quality standards demanded by the market. Leaf rust resistance in wheat varieties and lines lies mostly in combinations of seedling resistance genes or combinations of these with adult plant resistance (APR), including Lr34. Few recently released cultivars carry APR to leaf rust that might be expected to be durable. Since efforts to introduce slow rusting into high yielding adapted germplasm are increasing in most countries, more cultivars carrying this type of resistance will likely be released. If major genes are used, the introduction of effective genes not present in the regional germplasm will increase the diversity of resistance. Molecular markers are used in breeding in Argentina and are starting to be implemented in Brazil and Uruguay. Increased use of molecular tools could improve genetic progress in breeding programs, allow identification of APR genes present in current regional germplasm, and facilitate identification of new resistance genes.
Phenotypic and genotypic evaluation of wheat genetic resources and development of segregating populations are pre-requisites for identifying rust resistance genes. The objectives of this study were to assess adult plant resistance (APR) of selected wheat genotypes to leaf rust and stem rust and to develop segregating populations for resistance breeding. Eight selected Kenyan cultivars with known resistance to stem rust, together with local checks were evaluated for leaf rust and stem rust resistance at seedling stage and also across several environments. Selected diagnostic markers were used to determine the presence of known genes. All eight cultivars were crossed with local checks using a bi-parental mating design. Seedling tests revealed that parents exhibited differential infection types against wheat rust races. Cultivars Paka and Popo consistently showed resistant infection types at seedling stage, while Gem, Romany, Pasa, Fahari, Kudu, Ngiri and Kariega varied for resistant and susceptible infection types depending on the pathogen race used. The control cultivars Morocco and McNair consistently showed susceptible infection types as expected. In the field, all cultivars except for Morocco showed moderate to high levels of resistance, indicating the presence of effective resistance genes. Using diagnostic markers, presence of Lr34 was confirmed in Gem, Fahari, Kudu, Ngiri and Kariega, while Sr2 was present in Gem, Romany, Paka and Kudu. Seedling resistance gene, Sr35, was only detected in cultivar Popo. Overall, the study developed 909 F6:8 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) as part of the nested mating design and are useful genetic resources for further studies and for mapping wheat rust resistance genes.
Leaf rust (LR) caused by Puccinia triticina, is among the most important diseases of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) crops globally. Deployment of cultivars incorporating genetic resistance, such as adult plant resistance (APR) or all-stage resistance, is considered the most sustainable control method. APR is preferred for durability because it places lower selection pressure on the pathogen and is often polygenic. In the search for new sources of APR, here we explored a diversity panel sourced from the N. I. Vavilov Institute of Plant Genetic Resources. Based on DNA marker screening, 83 of the 300 lines were deemed to carry known APR genes; namely, Lr34, Lr46, and Lr67. Interestingly, lines carrying Lr67 were mostly landraces from India and Pakistan, reconfirming the likely origin of the gene. Rapid phenotypic screening using a method that integrates assessment at both seedling and adult growth stages under accelerated growth conditions (i.e., constant light and controlled temperature) identified 50 lines carrying APR. Levels of APR corresponded well with phenotypes obtained in a field nursery inoculated using the same pathotype (R2 = 0.82). The second year of field testing, using a mixture of pathotypes with additional virulence for race-specific APR genes (Lr13 and Lr37), identified a subset of 13 lines that consistently displayed high levels of APR across years and pathotypes. These lines provide useful sources of resistance for future research. A strategy combining rapid generation advance coupled with phenotyping under controlled conditions could accelerate introgression of these potentially novel alleles into adapted genetic backgrounds.