Understanding the role of photoprotection in disease resistance to Septoria tritici blotch in wheat

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Understanding the role of photoprotection in disease resistance to Septoria tritici blotch in wheat

Septoria tritici blotch disease caused by the fungus Zymoseptoria tritici is considered economically the most damaging disease of wheat. The fungal pathogen is capable of rapidly evolving and developing resistance to most currently available commercial fungicides. The most effective control is likely to be derived via genetic resistance. The latter requires improved understanding of the regulatory mechanisms of defence against this pathogen, and the identification of novel physiological traits and genes associated with disease resistance. Plants have evolved photoprotective mechanisms to avoid and repair damage to the photosynthetic apparatus due to environmental stress. The same mechanisms are also involved in the regulation of plant defence against pathogens via redox signalling originating in the plant chloroplasts. We have shown that photoprotective responses assessed by non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) of chlorophyll fluorescence were significantly affected by Z. tritici during disease development. In this project, we aim to determine whether NPQ temporal signatures can be utilised as markers for disease susceptibility and resistance. The overarching objective of this study is to determine the role of photoprotection in disease resistance to Z. tritici. The project will pursue the following specific objectives: (1) to identify the components of photoprotective responses involved in resistance to Z. tritici conferred by the resistance gene Stb6 we have recently cloned; (2) to investigate the role of antioxidants protecting chloroplast integrity in defence to Z. tritici; and (3) to determine if differences in aggressiveness/ virulence of strains of Z. tritici are related to photoprotective responses during early host-pathogen interactions.

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