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CAREER: Deciphering the mechanism of a broad-spectrum resistance gene against Fusarium gramin


Plant diseases cause significant losses to global agricultural production. Understanding the mechanism of resistance to major pathogens of crop plants is essential to ensuring food security for the ever-increasing human population. Fusarium graminearum, causing Fusarium Head Blight disease of wheat and barley, is a serious threat to global food security, and food safety. The traditional major resistance genes are not effective against F. graminearum, whereas the molecular mechanisms of atypical host resistance proteins have not been studied so far. Efforts in this project will be targeted to develop molecular understanding of a novel resistance protein against F. graminearum. Research will include characterizing the cellular and sub-cellular localization of the protein, investigating the pathway of transport of the protein, and study of the nature of interaction of the resistance protein with the pathogen. Long term implications of the project will be the development of knowledge-base to design broad-spectrum resistance against hemi-biotrophic and necrotrophic pathogens. Synergistic educational activities planned in the proposal include summer internship program for minority students from a local high school to motivate them to pursue higher studies in STEM, and providing undergraduate students positive hands-on experience in plant science research. Further educational goals of the project will include raising awareness about plant sciences in the general public, farmers and young children. <br/><br/><br/>Molecular mechanisms of plant resistance against necrotrophic and hemi-biotrophic pathogens are poorly understood. Using a broad-spectrum plant resistance protein, this project seeks to investigate molecular components of resistance against this category of pathogens. Mechanistic investigations will be carried out on atypical resistance against F. graminearum conferred by a ?Pore-forming toxin-like? (PFT) protein using Arabidopsis, Nicotiana, and wheat plant systems. PFT lacks secretory peptide signal and has an unconventional trafficking to the apoplast. The non-traditional trafficking pathway of PFT will be characterized with fluorescent tagging and microscopy. Temporal and spatial dimension of PFT- F. graminearum interaction will be studied by analyzing the protein levels of PFT in various developmental stages of wheat spikes: the infection court of F. graminearum. Interaction of PFT with other pathogens will provide details about the specificity of recognition of Fusarium spp by PFT. The advanced knowledge generated in this CAREER proposal on the mechanism of a broad-spectrum resistance gene will facilitate the development of resistance against fungal pathogens in crop plants. Educational activities planned include conducting a six-week summer internship program for minority students from a local high school, as well as providing scientific incubation to undergraduate students in plant science research. Additional broader impacts include informing farmers, stakeholders and the general public about the importance of plant science research in ensuring food security and food safety for all.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Nidhi Rawat
University of Maryland - College Park
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