Stripe rust is a devastating fungal disease that threatens global wheat production, with estimated global losses of around 1 billion dollars per year. Recently, the WTK1 gene was identified from a wild wheat relative that provides broad-spectrum resistance against the fungal pathogen causing stripe rust. Despite the importance of this disease, how WTK1 confers disease resistance remains unknown. This project will focus on identifying how WTK1 perceives the fungal pathogen causing stripe rust and signals inside wheat cells to confer disease resistance using cutting-edge protein-protein and genome editing technologies. A greater understanding of WTK1-mediated disease resistance will provide important mechanistic insight into signaling networks in plant disease resistance. A key goal of this project is to integrate research with the teaching and training of a diverse student body. As an NSF-BSF collaboration between Gitta Coaker and Tzion Fahima, funding will facilitate international US-Israel collaborations and opportunities for scientific training in both the US and Israel. The PI will also collaborate with a local middle school to develop hands-on plant laboratory modules that will utilize wheat genetics to illustrate the connection between genotype and phenotype. These laboratory modules will be implemented in the 7th grade science curriculum, will be inexpensive, sustainable, and reach >1,000 students during the course of the project.
Stripe rust, caused by Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici (Pst), is a devastating fungal disease threatening global wheat production. The WTK1 resistance gene derived from wild emmer wheat provides broad-spectrum disease resistance against Pst. WTK1 encodes a protein with tandem kinase-pseudokinase domain architecture, which represents a novel protein family widespread across the plant kingdom. Experiments will investigate the importance of WTK1 domain architecture for conferring disease resistance to Pst as well as the identity of WTK1 associated proteins. RNAseq will be used to investigate wheat responses in resistant and susceptible wheat genotypes (+/- WTK1). Imporatant-WTK1 associated proteins and signaling nodes will be investigated using genome editing approaches for their importance in wheat disease resistance against Pst. Collectively, these studies will shed light into the function of a novel protein family and mechanisms controlling broad-spectrum disease resistance in monocots.
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.