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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Cross-Kingdom RNAi of Pathogen Effectors Leads to Quantitative Adult Plant Resistance in Wheat

Schaefer, Luisa Katharina; Parlange, Francis; Buchmann, Gabriele; Jung, Esther; Wehrli, Andreas; Herren, Gerhard; Mueller, Marion Claudia; Stehlin, Jonas; Schmid, Roman; Wicker, Thomas; Keller, Beat; Bourras, Salim


Cross-kingdom RNA interference (RNAi) is a biological process allowing plants to transfer small regulatory RNAs to invading pathogens to trigger the silencing of target virulence genes. Transient assays in cereal powdery mildews suggest that silencing of one or two effectors could lead to near loss of virulence, but evidence from stable RNAi lines is lacking. We established transient host-induced gene silencing (HIGS) in wheat, and demonstrate that targeting an essential housekeeping gene in the wheat powdery mildew pathogen (Blumeria graminis f. sp. tritici) results in significant reduction of virulence at an early stage of infection. We generated stable transgenic RNAi wheat lines encoding a HIGS construct simultaneously silencing three B.g. tritici effectors including SvrPm3(a1/f1), a virulence factor involved in the suppression of the Pm3 powdery mildew resistance gene. We show that all targeted effectors are effectively downregulated by HIGS, resulting in reduced fungal virulence on adult wheat plants. Our findings demonstrate that stable HIGS of effector genes can lead to quantitative gain of resistance without major pleiotropic effects in wheat.


cross-kingdom RNAi; ck-RNAi; host-induced gene silencing; HIGS; ribonuclease-like effectors; effectors; Blumeria graminis; wheat

Published in

Frontiers in Plant Science
2020, volume: 11, article number: 253

Authors' information

Schaefer, Luisa Katharina
Univ Zurich
Parlange, Francis
Univ Zurich
Buchmann, Gabriele
Univ Zurich
Jung, Esther
Univ Zurich
Wehrli, Andreas
Univ Zurich
Herren, Gerhard
Univ Zurich
Mueller, Marion Claudia
Univ Zurich
Stehlin, Jonas
Univ Zurich
Schmid, Roman
Univ Zurich
Wicker, Thomas
Univ Zurich
Keller, Beat
Univ Zurich
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Mycology and Plant Pathology
University of Zürich

Associated SLU-program

SLU Network Plant Protection

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science

Publication Identifiers


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