College of Food, Ag & Nat Res Sci
Fusarium head blight or scab caused by Fusarium graminearum is a destructive disease of wheat and barley. Infested cereals are reduced in yield and contaminated with harmful mycotoxins. In the past decade, the disease has resulted in billions of dollars of economic loss to United States agriculture. Better understanding of F. graminearum pathogenesis and differentiation is critical because effective fungicides and highly resistant plant varieties are not available for controlling the disease. This group’s goals are to identify and characterize genes important for plant infection and colonization, secondary metabolism, sporulation, and sexual development of F. graminearum by using transcriptome analysis and targeted mutation of selected genes.
One objective of this research is to analyze gene expression profiles of F. graminearum in different infection and colonization stages, in mutants defective in plant infection or toxin production, and in different developmental stages. Genes differentially expressed during specific infection or development processes or in response to mutants will be identified by high throughput cDNA sequencing (RNAseq). The second objective is to experimentally determine the biological functions of selected candidate genes identified in gene expression experiments. Targeted deletion mutants will be generated for genes chosen on the basis of expression profiles and bioinformatics analyses. A third objective will be to assess the presence of Fusarium species and total fungal content of environmental samples using a metagenomic approach. MSI resources are used for storage and analysis of RNAseq data as well as DNA sequence storage and metagenomic analysis of fungi from environmental samples.