Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/3/2001
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary: It is now possible to transfer genes that are cloned in the laboratory into plants. This ability to "transform" plants opens up the possibility of introducing genes that might help plants defend themselves against disease. This is especially important for wheat and barley, which have been devastated in recent years in the Midwestern U.S. by Fusarium head blight. Conventional breeding for this disease has been only partially successful. Consequently, several laboratories in the U.S. and elsewhere are beginning to introduce genes into plants to test them for disease resistance. This chapter reviews these efforts with emphasis on the methods used and the various types of genes that need to be tested for efficacy against Fusarium head blight. The chapter will be used by scientists working in the U.S. and elsewhere on the disease who need to understand the current status of gene testing and the potential of transforming plants to enhance disease resistance.
Technical Abstract: Fusarium head blight scab of wheat and barley re-emerged in the 1990s as a destructive disease in the midwestern states. Efforts to obtain resistance to this disease by plant breeding have had only partial success. This chapter describes the potential value of using biotechnology to improve resistance to head blight. Included are the available methodologies to put tgenes into plants using recombinant DNA technology. Several classes of potentially useful genes are discussed, with examples of promising results in diseases other than head blight. These include genes for antifungal proteins (several types), for systemic acquired resistance, for enzymes involved in defense reactions, genes that act against toxin produced by the pathogen, and genes that act against programmed death of plant cells. Also discussed are potential problems in obtaining expression of genes introduced into plants such as gene silencing. In summary, the procedures reviewed are a promising way to improve head blight resistance, but a long term, coordinated effort by governmental, academic and private research organizations will be required for success.