Natural fungal disease resistance in oat, MSc, BSc or PUK hos Institut for Plante- og Miljøvidenskab - Københavns Universitet

Global food security is challenged by fungal diseases annually devastating a third of all crops. Key staple food cereal crops are strongly affected, particularly by Fusarium species that decrease yields as well as grain quality and safety, due to contamination with harmful mycotoxins, most importantly the trichothecene deoxynivalenol (DON). Climate change increases the incidence of unexpected disease outbreaks, and management by fungicides is of limited success and unsustainable, making Fusarium resistance an important breeding target. Fusarium disease resistance is a complex of traits, and genes that detoxify DON have been shown to play an important role, as DON acts as a fungal virulence factor. However, well characterized routes for in planta DON detoxification lead to production of so-called masked mycotoxins, that can be re-activated in the human and animal intestines upon ingestion of contaminated grain. It is therefore attractive to identify genes that lead to irreversible detoxification. Recent advances have identified new enzymes that can confer such detoxification, and our research points to oat as a potential source of genes that encode particularly efficient DON detoxifying enzymes as well as additional novel routes for degradation of the harmful DON.

The project will be carried out in a young research group, as part of a larger Novo Nordisk Foundation grant and can take several directions, depending on the interests of the student and the duration of the project. In our research group, we use state-of-the-art methods and instruments for analytical chemistry, molecular biology, heterologous expression, and biochemical enzyme characterization, and we collaborate with plant pathologists on the Fusarium infection side of the project. Elements and technologies that can be parts of the project could be, but are not restricted to:

  • Mycotoxin analyses
  • Characterization of detoxification routes by detailed LC-MS analysis of plant samples
  • Identification of candidate genes using bioinformatics analyses of the recently released genome of hexaploid oat
  • Cloning, heterologous expression and/or biochemical characterization of candidate genes
  • Development of methods for transgenic expression in oat
  • Expression of oat genes in other cereals for characterization of biochemistry and/or

Fusarium resistance

  • Optimization of oat-

Fusarium infection system with respect to Fusarium strains, infected tissues, treatment with biological control agents

Our plant pathology collaborators are situated at PLEN, and in addition we have collaborators in Austria, Sweden and Australia. It might be possible to incorporate a stay abroad as part of a MSc project.

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