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Exploiting the immune system to tackle emerging filamentous diseases in tomato


Agricultural systems are highly exposed to devastating attacks by emerging filamentous pathogens. Current methods of disease control depend on pesticides, increasingly regarded as unsuitable. Research that exploits the plant immune system against these biological threats provides a potential source for future disease control strategies. In addition to the innate immune system, plants have evolved the ability to adapt to hostile conditions by priming their defence mechanisms in response to hostile signals. Priming is triggered by signals that indicate an up-coming attack, including chemical priming agents such as b-amino butyric acid (BABA). BABA-induced resistance is an attractive concept for sustainable agriculture because it provides broad-spectrum resistance in a wide range of plant species, including tomato. The reason for its performance results from it priming multiple defence signalling pathways. Tomato is a host for pests and diseases that limit yield. Genetic variation in the induced resistance response has only been studied before in Arabidopsis. The overall aim of the project is to identify the induced-resistance traits (IR-traits) that maximise the induced resistance capacity of tomato to provide broad-spectrum protection against emerging filamentous diseases. I will use state-of-the-art facilities to quantitatively phenotype BABA-IR in a recombinant inbred line population against the devastating oomycete pathogen Phytophthora infestans. I will then identify and characterise the genetic and molecular mechanisms responsible for the IR-traits. Finally, I will test the hypothesis that multi-directional resistance provided by the IR-traits offers effective protection against new virulent strains of P. infestans and Fusarium oxysporum with highly emerging potential. This work will provide a revolutionary steps-ahead strategy against biological threats by exploiting the immune system to prepare for the fight against rapidly-evolved emerging pathogens.

Luna Diez, Estrella
University of Sheffield
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