Crop Wild Relatives: Genetic Treasure Troves
Crop plants live in a world teeming with microbes - many of them pathogens. Plants have evolved elaborate resistance mechansims to pathogens and diseases. These mechanisms are controlled by disease resistance genes that act as "sentinels" to identify pathogens and as "switches" to activate defense responses. Wild relatives are rich sources of resistance genes for crop improvement. This research aims to develop tools to capitalize upon genomics resources to discover patterns of disease resistance gene distribution and allelic diversification across related plant species. Working mostly in the Solanaceae (potato, tomato, pepper) and Rosaceae (apple, peach, strawberry), this project directs phenotypic screening efforts of wild germplasm, yields testable hypotheses that link resistance gene sequence to function, and allows novel and efficient approaches to gene mapping and cloning. The research also employs RNA-seq approaches to understand plant defense responses in different organs and throughout plant development.
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