The Fusarium crown rot pathogenFusarium pseudograminearumtriggers a suite of transcriptional and metabolic changes in bread wheat (Triticum aestivumL.)

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Background and Aims

Fusarium crown rot caused by the fungal pathogen Fusarium pseudograminearum is a disease of wheat and barley, bearing significant economic cost. Efforts to develop effective resistance to this disease have been hampered by the quantitative nature of resistance and a lack of understanding of the factors associated with resistance and susceptibility. Here, we aimed to dissect transcriptional responses triggered in wheat by F. pseudograminearum infection.


We used an RNA-seq approach to analyse host responses during a compatible interaction and identified >2700 wheat genes differentially regulated after inoculation with F. pseudograminearum. The production of a few key metabolites and plant hormones in the host during the interaction was also analysed.

Key Results

Analysis of gene ontology enrichment showed that a disproportionate number of genes involved in primary and secondary metabolism, signalling and transport were differentially expressed in infected seedlings. A number of genes encoding pathogen-responsive uridine-diphosphate glycosyltransferases (UGTs) potentially involved in detoxification of the Fusarium mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) were differentially expressed. Using a F. pseudograminearum DON-non-producing mutant, DON was shown to play an important role in virulence during Fusarium crown rot. An over-representation of genes involved in the phenylalanine, tryptophan and tyrosine biosynthesis pathways was observed. This was confirmed through metabolite analyses that demonstrated tryptamine and serotonin levels are induced after F. pseudograminearum inoculation.


Overall, the observed host response in bread wheat to F. pseudograminearum during early infection exhibited enrichment of processes related to pathogen perception, defence signalling, transport and metabolism and deployment of chemical and enzymatic defences. Additional functional analyses of candidate genes should reveal their roles in disease resistance or susceptibility. Better understanding of host responses contributing to resistance and/or susceptibility will aid the development of future disease improvement strategies against this important plant pathogen.

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