Rust plant pathogens make up a large fungal group that cannot survive on their own, so they use crops as hosts, leading to reduced yields and potentially hindering efforts to grow biomass for fuel. To learn more about these pathogens, a 2006 Community Sequencing Program project at the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) generated the 101-million base pair genome of the poplar leaf rust fungus Melampsora larici-populina, the first tree pathogen sequenced.
The fungal project complements work as poplar leaf rust outbreaks weaken poplar trees, a candidate bioenergy feedstock whose genome sequence was published by JGI in 2007. A new study that involved a JGI researcher compares the genomes of poplar leaf rust and wheat stem rust fungi, the latter sequenced by the Broad Institute, in order to develop better biocontrol methods. In combination with the genome sequence of Populus, published in 2006, researchers will be able to compare and dissect the molecular interactions that lead to symbiotic versus pathogenic responses in the host plant.
Reference: Duplessis, S., et al. 2011. "Obligate Biotrophy Features Unraveled by the Genomic Analysis of Rust Fungi," PNAS Early Edition, www.pnas.org/content/108/22/9166
Contact: SC-23.2, (301) 903-4742, Dan Drell
SC-33.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER
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