Functional variability of the Lr34 durable resistance gene in transgenic wheat


  • Accession numbers for EMBL seq database: FJ436983.

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Breeding for durable disease resistance is challenging, yet essential to improve crops for sustainable agriculture. The wheat Lr34 gene is one of the few cloned, durable resistance genes in plants. It encodes an ATP binding cassette transporter and has been a source of resistance against biotrophic pathogens, such as leaf rust (Puccinina triticina), for over 100 years. As endogenous Lr34 confers quantitative resistance, we wanted to determine the effects of transgenic Lr34 with specific reference to how expression levels affect resistance. Transgenic Lr34 wheat lines were made in two different, susceptible genetic backgrounds. We found that the introduction of the Lr34 resistance allele was sufficient to provide comparable levels of leaf rust resistance as the endogenous Lr34 gene. As with the endogenous gene, we observed resistance in seedlings after cold treatment and in flag leaves of adult plants, as well as Lr34-associated leaf tip necrosis. The transgene-based Lr34 resistance did not involve a hypersensitive response, altered callose deposition or up-regulation of PR genes. Higher expression levels compared to endogenous Lr34 were observed in the transgenic lines both at seedling as well as adult stage and some improvement of resistance was seen in the flag leaf. Interestingly, in one genetic background the transgenic Lr34-based resistance resulted in improved seedling resistance without cold treatment. These data indicate that functional variability in Lr34-based resistance can be created using a transgenic approach.