Transcriptome-wide association study identifies putative elicitors/suppressor of Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici that modulate barley rpg4-mediated stem rust resistance
Stem rust is an economically important disease of wheat and barley. However, studies to gain insight into the molecular basis of these host-pathogen interactions have primarily focused on wheat because of its importance in human sustenance. This is the first extensive study utilizing a transcriptome-wide association mapping approach to identify candidate Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici (Pgt) effectors/suppressors that elicit or suppress barley stem rust resistance genes. Here we focus on
... fying Pgt elicitors that interact with the rpg4-mediated resistance locus (RMRL), the only effective source of Pgt race TTKSK resistance in barley. Thirty-seven Pgt isolates showing differential responses on RMRL were genotyped using Restriction Site Associated DNA-Genotyping by Sequencing (RAD-GBS), identifying 24 diverse isolates that were used for transcript analysis during the infection process. In planta RNAseq was conducted with the 24 diverse isolates on the susceptible barley variety Harrington, 5 days post inoculation. The transcripts were mapped to the Pgt race SCCL reference genome identifying 114 K variants in predicted genes that would result in nonsynonymous amino acid substitutions. Transcriptome wide association analysis identified 33 variants across 28 genes that were associated with dominant RMRL virulence, thus, representing candidate suppressors of resistance. Comparative transcriptomics between the 9 RMRL virulent -vs- the 15 RMRL avirulent Pgt isolates identified 44 differentially expressed genes encoding candidate secreted effector proteins (CSEPs), among which 38 were expressed at lower levels in virulent isolates suggesting that they may represent RMRL avirulence genes. Barley transcript analysis after colonization with 9 RMRL virulent and 15 RMRL avirulent isolates inoculated on the susceptible line Harrington showed significantly lower expression of host biotic stress responses specific to RMRL virulent isolates suggesting virulent isolates harbor effectors that suppress resistance responses. This transcriptomic study provided novel findings that help fill knowledge gaps in the understanding of stem rust virulence/avirulence and host resistance in barley. The pathogen transcriptome analysis suggested RMRL virulence might depend on the lack of avirulence genes, but evidence from pathogen association mapping analysis and host transcriptional analysis also suggested the alternate hypothesis that RMRL virulence may be due to the presence of suppressors of defense responses.