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Norwich, United Kingdom

Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 439.75K | Year: 2016

Rust is one of the most devastating diseases of wheat, causing severe yield losses in the UK and globally. Wheat, similar to all plants, has a sophisticated immune system that is currently under-deployed in agriculture. The aim of this project is to improve cultivated wheat by isolating novel sources of rust disease resistance and making them rapidly available to wheat breeding programs. Wheat is the most prevailing plant on earth as wheat crops occupy nearly 25% of world agricultural land. With annual production at more than 650 million tons globally, wheat provides a quarter of all calories and fifth of protein supply to humanity, and yet the annual yield increases are critically below the rate required to feed the growing human population. According to the predictions from the World Bank, agricultural productivity will need to increase as much as 70% to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Growing wheat varieties resistant to diseases is an economical and environmentally friendly solution to increase yield on available agricultural land while reducing growth costs. As a New Investigator, I am establishing a research programme focused on improving resistance of wheat to a broad range of fungal diseases. I am leveraging recent technological advances, such as cutting-age sequence technologies, for the efficient study of highly complex wheat genome. I plan to rapidly identify novel rust resistance genes derived from cultivated wheat and make these genes accessible to traditional non-transgenic breeding programmes. I have already carried out a screen for new yellow rust resistant mutants of wheat that I believe are novel and can be a new source of disease resistance. By testing resistance in our wheat lines against a variety of wheat pathogens, including mildews and Septoria leaf spot, my group will identify sources of broad-spectrum resistance. By applying new sequencing technologies in a highly efficient manner we will dramatically reduce the time of wheat gene isolation from 15-20 years to just 2-3 years. Furthermore, I am aiming to investigate the mechanisms of plant resistance and to study the evolution of these mechanisms and their diversity in wheat. Isolation of novel rust resistance genes that are derived from cultivated wheat will make these economically important traits immediately available for ongoing wheat breading programs. As our sources of resistance are derived from elite cultivars, such introduction can be achieved with conventional non-transgenic manner. Knowing the genomic locations of new disease resistance is key to accelerate this process. The gene isolation approach developed here will be applicable to any trait of interest. The major output of my proposed project will be new disease resistance genes and the new tools that plant breeders can use to introduce resistance into the most commonly grown, high yielding wheat varieties. I foresee a great benefit from this project not only to wheat breeders and wheat growers, but also to society in general. Advanced understanding of plant defense systems and deploying it to control plant diseases is a timely economical solution to increase food supply and reduce use of pesticides.

Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Intramural | Award Amount: 105.33K | Year: 2015

Wheat yellow rust caused by the fungus Puccinia striiformis f. sp tritici is a substantial threat to wheat production worldwide and recently re-emerged as a major constraint on UK agriculture. Its importance to global food security is reflected by the significant contribution of wheat to the calorific and protein intake of human kind (approximately 20%). The devastating impact of this disease gives a deep sense of urgency to breeders, farmers and end users to improve surveillance. The overall aim of this project is to apply our recently developed “field pathogenomics” genomics-based pathogen surveillance technique to the surveillance of yellow rust, and undertake comprehensive global population genetic analyses of this important plant pathogen. The proposed research aims to: (1) Analyze the threat of potential exotic incursions of wheat yellow rust to the UK by mapping the global population structure, (2) exploit rust pathogen genotype data to confirm outbreaks on particular wheat varieties and look for associations between pathogen genotypes and host pedigrees, (3) generate information on whether genotypic diversity shifts over time at a locality and whether early appearing rust genotypes are predictive of late season genotypes and (4) develop appropriate open-source tools to ensure all data generated herein is released into the public domain as soon as possible and in a format that is suitable for breeders, pathologists and the wider demographic. This project aims to equip the UK with the latest genomic tools, facilitate more efficient varietal development by breeders, and help reduce the environmental and economic costs associated with fungicide applications, all of which will have a positive impact on the overall competitiveness and sustainability of the UK arable industry.

Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 52.06K | Year: 2015

The bacterium Salmonella accounts for about 125 million incidents of disease worldwide each year, and nearly a million deaths. The morbidity and mortality caused by this pathogen has a significant impact on the economies of both resource rich and resource poor countries. Most cases of non-typhoidal Salmonella are thought to result from fecal contamination of food and food products, either directly in the food chain or by cross contamination in the home or restaurants. A common and therefore critical step for this is the entry of the bacterium into the food chain from livestock and poultry in which this pathogen is commonly found. However, even though virtually all types of Salmonella have the potential to cause disease in man, not all are commonly associated with disease in man. Understanding how these processes work is critical to the detection of high risk types of Salmonella in livestock and the food chain, and efforts to decrease the likelihood of Salmonella entering these environments. We propose to study two common types of Salmonella that are both present in pig herds butter present distinct risk to food safety. We will study these bacteria at a genetic and behavioural level to understand how the different types circulate in pig populations in the UK and how they enter and survive in our food. First a collection of pig and food chain isolates of Salmonella Typhimurium will be whole genome sequenced and the variation in their genome used to define the how they spread into the food chain and into the human population. Then we will study important behavioural variations that may impact the threat posed by the variants in food. As the types of Salmonella to be studied are genetically closely related, the number of genetic differences are small, which makes it possible to identify candidate differences associated with altered behaviours of the variants. Genetic differences in types of Salmonella are potential candidates targets for surveillance to identify types more likely to represent a risk to food safety or for other intervention strategies aimed at decreasing the likelihood that they will enter the food chain.

Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 9.90K | Year: 2016

Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.

Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 43.86K | Year: 2015

A fundamental schism exists between organisms with cells such as our own which contain nuclei (eukaryotes), and bacterial cells which do not. The vast majority of eukaryote species are single celled organisms or protozoa displaying enormous genetic diversity leading to huge variation in biology, myriad form and function. In just a few groups of protozoa the ability to parasitize animals such as ourselves has arisen. Kinetoplastids and Diplomonads are two such groups of protozoa which are believed to have diverged from the animal lineage not long after the last eukaryotic common ancestor (close to the root of the eukaryotic tree). Within both groups are important but neglected pathogens of humans - those which cause the deadly vector-borne trypanosomiases and leishmanias; and those that cause the waterborne diahorrea, giardiasis and a variety of other pathogenic species and free living species which are free living rather than parasitic. Comparison of the genomes from pathogenic and apathogenic members of these groups will highlight the evolution of groups of genes encoding proteins which act to circumvent the defences of animal hosts and upon which the pathogenicity and virulence of these organisms depends. Such genes are also key targets for vaccination, drug and monoclonal therapeutics. The proposal brings together an expert team of parasitologists, protozoologists, evolutionary biologists, genome biologists and bioinformaticians from the FioCruz Institute in Brazil and from TGAC and the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. The project undertakes to deliver the first high quality genome sequences of twenty kinetoplastid and diplomonad genomes. The genomes selected will span the breadth of the genetic diversity in these groups and will be analysed in concert with existing genomic data from the key pathogenic species. The technology involved is state of the art and constantly upgraded and the expectation is that the genomes and transcriptomes produced will be of the highest possible quality. There will be a reciprocal exchange of expertise, with bidirectional knowledge transfer of technical and analytical techniques facilitated by exchange visits of key personnel and students. Our basic strategy will be to culture the organisms, making use of the Wolfson laboratory for emerging pathogens at UEA for the culture of the pathogenic members of the group. We will harvest and purify the nucleic acid using a chaotropic buffer to disrupt the cells and silica affinity for nucleic acid purification. Will we use a mixture of methods and technologies to assemble high quality genomes including whole genome sequencing and optical mapping for the genomes and RNA-seq to delimit the transcriptome. Finally, we will combine the data sets for each lineage to infer details from the genomic complexity relating to evolutionary adaptations for parasitic lifestyle. In so doing we will establish sustainable collaborations between UK and Brazilian researchers that will lead to publications, and substantial advances in the field upon which the new collaborations can build future projects. Overall, the purpose of these analyses is to add insight into the functional biology of two groups of divergent flagellated protozoans which have independently evolved from free living organisms to major human and animal pathogens. Each group is biologically distinctive and famously defined by peculiarities in cell and molecular biology - elucidating how these peculiarities have evolved and continue to do and their contribution to the evolution of parasitism in these distinct lineages is fundamental biology and will be the primary objective of this work.

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