Both cultivated and wild plants are exposed to infections by microorganisms, so-called pathogens, which cause disease. This is of great scientific and economic interest. Infections involve very complex biological mechanisms that include many gene products and signalling events in the plant and pathogen. The key to controlling disease is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying disease development, and it is important to consider both the pathogen and the plant as one system (the pathosystem).
The FragDef project focuses on the strawberry plant and its close relatives, as well as one of the most destructive pathogens in strawberry cultivation, Phytophthora cactorum. This pathogen causes disease resulting in large economic losses and which today is often controlled by use of pesticides, with a potential negative effect on the environment. One of the best and most environmentally friendly ways to manage plant diseases is to use resistant cultivars. There are good resistance properties in some, but many of the common cultivars are susceptible to disease.
The aim of the project is to explore the pathosystem to generate new basic insights into the interaction between the plant and the pathogen. Using modern omics technologies, which have both high resolution and speed, new aspects of the warfare between plants and their invaders can be revealed, which can ultimately help managing plant diseases.
Our ambition in the project is to move plant-pathogen interaction studies from the genetically relatively simple model plant wild strawberry to the far more complicated octoploid garden strawberry, by using two wild octoploid parent species of garden strawberry in the transition.
We plan to develop effective phenotyping techniques using sensors and machine learning for this pathosystem. Combined with modern genotyping techniques, we will in the long run be able to utilize genetic resources, especially resistance genes, which occur in wild plants, in a new and better way.
Infections of plants by microbial pathogens are of great scientific and economic interest. Such infections involve highly complex biological mechanisms comprising many gene products and signalling events in the host plant and its parasite. Basic research using modern high-throughput technologies can reveal novel aspects of the fascinating warfare between plants and their attackers and may eventually help in controlling plant disease. We are particularly interested in strawberry and its close relatives in the genus Fragaria, which are infected by the eukaryotic notorious plant pathogen Phytophthora cactorum. With full genome information at hand for many Fragaria species as well as the pathogen, we will study this pathosystem using several approaches. Our ambition is to move plant-pathogen-interaction studies from the diploid model level to the far more complicated octoploid strawberry crop plant, bridging this process by using two wild octoploid ancestors as well as the diploid progenitor that has provided the most dominant subgenome in the octoploid strawberry. Moreover, we will domesticate wild resistance genes by interspecies hybridizations between wild ancestors and modern cultivars, aided by high-throughput genotyping techniques. To complement these techniques, we will develop phenotyping techniques using sensors and machine learning. The project is a collaboration between renown experts working on molecular aspects of Phytophthora infections, plant genetics, protein biochemistry and artificial intelligence, the joint goal being to explore our pathosystem to generate fundamentally novel molecular insights into plant-pathogen interactions.