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Genomics of quantitative resistance to brown rust (Puccinia melanocephala) in a sugarcane breeding population.

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The Sugarcane Industry contributes approximately 400 000 jobs and ZAR 8 billion annually to South Africa’s economy. Due to climate change and the subsequent threat posed by disease, these figures have been on the decline. Brown rust, a contributor to this decline is caused by the basidiomycete Puccinia melanocephala Syd. and P. Syd., which previously resulted in 50% yield losses in susceptible varieties. This highlighted the need for improved screening and breeding techniques which will result in the replacement of susceptible varieties. The objectives of this study were to: a) Adopt and optimise a glasshouse whorl inoculation screening technique applicable for mass screening of large populations. b) Develop a rapid and cost effective rust resistance screening technique using detached leaves. c)Utilise two flanking marker sets (R12H16 and 9O20-F4-PCR primers) for the rust resistance Bru1 gene in a diagnostic polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to identify rust resistant genotypes lacking Bru1 and possessing either quantitative resistance or an alternative major qualitative resistance gene. d) Correlate rust phenotypic data to AFLP marker data for the Linkage Disequilibrium (LD2) mapping population. e) Utilise suppression subtractive hybridization (SSH) profiling on rust challenged genotypes to discover differentially expressed genes between susceptible and resistant (susceptible Bru1 negatives taken away from resistant Bru1 negatives); and resistant genotypes (resistant Bru1 positives taken away from resistant Bru1 negatives). 4 Results from the glasshouse whorl inoculation trials showed the technique could be reliably used to screen large populations, as two independently conducted pot trials showed highly correlated rust ratings. A visually assessed detached leaf assay (DLA) was developed using selected genotypes. Chlorophyll fluorescence and SPAD readings were used in the DLA to determine the leaf photochemical efficiency (PIABS) with relation to chlorophyll content, resulting in reduced assessment time of at least two days. PCR diagnostics revealed 31% of LD2 did not possess either flanking marker, 8% had one or the other marker, and 61% had both markers. The overall rust phenotypic ratings (rating scale of 0-10) and Bru1 status of the genotypes was used to group the population, with the Bru1 negative genotypes containing all three rating categories (resistant 0-3.5; intermediate 3.51-6.5; susceptible 6.51-10); while the Bru1 positive genotypes were all resistant. The phenotypic data was correlated to AFLP data using the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient and stepwise multiple linear regression employed to build marker based models to use for predicting non-Bru1 mediated resistance. SSH analysis was then subsequently conducted on genotypes selected on the basis of Bru1 status and AFLP correlation data. Two subtraction cDNA libraries were constructed and the cDNA inserted into electro-competent Escherichia coli cells. PCR on transformed cells revealed cDNA inserts ranging from 200- 1300bp. BLAST analysis of the cDNA sequences indicated the presence of high proportions of disease and drought stress related sequences in the libraries. Analysis of the sequences in both libraries showed that the resistant Bru1 negative genotypes contained oxidative stress related sequences which were however absent in the Bru1 positive resistant genotypes. The library comparing the Bru1 negative resistant genotypes against the Bru1 negative intermediate and susceptible genotypes showed a higher proportion of differentially expressed sequences coding for putative disease resistance proteins, highlighting their presence in the resistant genotypes. Both subtraction libraries also contained high proportions of a leucine rich repeat protein coding cDNA which contained a conserved domain homologous to that of a disease resistance protein conferring resistance to Pseudomonas syringae in Arabidopsis thaliana. The outcomes of this study will subsequently enable an improved understanding of sugarcane-rust resistance mechanisms and improved breeding and screening techniques for sugarcane by identifying SSH and AFLP markers linked to rust resistance QTLs or alternative R genes.


Thesis (M.Sc.Agric)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2012.


Sugarcane--Diseases and pests--South Africa., Sugarcane--Diseases and pest resistance--Genetic aspects., Sugarcane--South Africa--Genetics., Rust diseases--South Africa., Puccinia--South Africa., Fungal diseases of plants--South Africa., Theses--Plant pathology.