Intragenic allele pyramiding combines different specificities of wheat Pm3 resistance alleles


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Some plant resistance genes occur as allelic series, with each member conferring specific resistance against a subset of pathogen races. In wheat, there are 17 alleles of the Pm3 gene. They encode nucleotide-binding (NB-ARC) and leucine-rich-repeat (LRR) domain proteins, which mediate resistance to distinct race spectra of powdery mildew. It is not known if specificities from different alleles can be combined to create resistance genes with broader specificity. Here, we used an approach based on avirulence analysis of pathogen populations to characterize the molecular basis of Pm3 recognition spectra. A large survey of mildew races for avirulence on the Pm3 alleles revealed that Pm3a has a resistance spectrum that completely contains that of Pm3f, but also extends towards additional races. The same is true for the Pm3b and Pm3c gene pair. The molecular analysis of these allelic pairs revealed a role of the NB-ARC protein domain in the efficiency of effector-dependent resistance. Analysis of the wild-type and chimeric Pm3 alleles identified single residues in the C-terminal LRR motifs as the main determinant of allele specificity. Variable residues of the N-terminal LRRs are necessary, but not sufficient, to confer resistance specificity. Based on these data, we constructed a chimeric Pm3 gene by intragenic allele pyramiding of Pm3d and Pm3e that showed the combined resistance specificity and, thus, a broader recognition spectrum compared with the parental alleles. Our findings support a model of stepwise evolution of Pm3 recognition specificities.