Research conducted by the Laboratory of Nematology is part of the research program of the Graduate School Experimental Plant Sciences (EPS) and the C.T. de Wit Graduate School for Production Ecology & Resource Conservation (PE&RC).
Strigolactones: an alternative route towards plant loss-of-susceptibility to root feeding nematodes
Cyst and root-knot nematodes have a large impact on yield of major food crops all over the world. Currently, control of these devastating soil-borne pests largely relies on a small number of available major resistance (R) genes. However, recent reports on the global spread of resistance-breaking populations of cyst and root-knot nematodes are cause for serious concerns about the durability of these R genes. A theoretical alternative to R-gene based resistance might be breeding for loss-of-susceptibility alleles, which interfere with crucial steps of nematode parasitism, such as attraction, host invasion, and feeding site development. However, bona fide loss-of-susceptibility alleles for plant parasitic nematodes have not been identified in major food crops to date. Our preliminary data suggests that the recently discovered strigolactones could be important regulators of plant susceptibility to cyst and root-knot nematodes, and that allelic variation in strigolactone signaling pathways could result in loss-of-susceptibility. The objective of this project is therefore to unravel the role of strigolactones in susceptibility of Arabidopsis to Heterodera schachtii (cyst nematode) and Meloidogyne incognita (root-knot nematode). Understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms of strigolactone signaling underlying nematode-plant interactions may provide leads towards loss-of-susceptibility alleles that can be used for breeding of durable resistance in crops.