PI: Shahryar F. Kianian (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities/ USDA-ARS Cereal Disease Laboratory)
CoPI: Changbin Chen (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities)
The interaction between the nuclear and cytoplasmic genomes plays a critical role in the development of all eukaryotes. Hundreds of human diseases and many phenotypic variations in plants are known to be the result of alterations affecting this communication. However, the nature of nuclear-cytoplasmic interactions in plants is poorly understood. Wheat has the largest array of alloplasmic lines containing cytoplasmic genomes derived from wild and related species than any other mammalian, insect, or plant system and is an ideal model system for the study of nuclear-cytoplasmic interactions. Studies in the PI's laboratory showed that alloplasmic lines containing cytoplasm from wild wheat relatives showed significantly increased disease resistance, vigor, and productivity when compared to the corresponding euplasmic (with true cytoplasm) lines. Sequencing data from these lines also show that not only does the mitochondrial genome change by replacement of the nuclear genome but that those changes result in alteration of mitochondrial gene expression patterns. This EAGER proposal will investigate the role of cytoplasmic modifications in stress tolerance which could provide a new way of breeding for biotic and abiotic stress in crop plants. The specific objectives are to: 1) determine the extent and role of cytoplasmic genomes on biotic and abiotic stress tolerance by investigating ~100 alloplasmic lines for resistance to pathogens and salt stress; 2) identify the cytoplasmic genome that is responsible for the altered response to biotic and abiotic stress; and 3) investigate the molecular mechanism underlying the effect of cytoplasmic genomes on stress tolerance. This project will advance understanding of the role that cytoplasmic genomes play in providing increased tolerance to biotic and abiotic stressin plants and will be important in breeding. Current breeding strategies rely purely on homogeneous cytoplasmic background of the predominant species. This study could change this paradigm to take advantage of cytoplasmic genomes from wild species that confer tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress.
The research activities will be interfaced with the University of Minnesota's programs designed to recruit and train students at all levels. A postdoctoral scientist will be mentored and advised by the two PIs and given training in genomics, bioinformatics, grant writing, networking and teaching, according to the individual development plan designed by the postdoctoral associate. All sequencing data generated by this project will be deposited in public databases such as NCBI. The germplasm developed by this project will be made available upon request through the USDA National Small Grains Collection.