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).
The host-parasite supergenome: an untapped source for disease resistance
One of the most devastating plant attackers to agricultural productivity across the world is plant parasitic nematodes. From all known nematodes, root-knot nematodes, especially Meloidogyne species are one of the most importance pest of agriculture in tropics and subtropics region. The control of Meloidogyne in agriculture, for decades rely on the use of nematicides. However, today most of the nematicides and chemical pesticides use has been reduced significantly (and banned) due to their toxicity for humans and environment, which makes the control effort against root-knot nematodes largely rely on the use of resistance cultivar.
Current development of control strategy uses qualitative measure through resistant gene focusing on the ability of root-knot nematodes in forming feeding sites in the root of host plants. This feeding site formation by nematodes orchestrate a wide range of molecular and cellular processes both from the plant and the nematodes, including the modification of cell wall, cell cycle regulation, plant hormones, cytoskeleton regulation, and gene expression regulation. Due to the combination of complex processes that regulate the nematodes parasitism, forward genetic approach employing the identification of genetic basis of feeding site formation should take into account the intimate interaction between nematodes and the host plant. However, current detection of responsible loci of this feeding sites, still focus only on one side, either the nematodes or the plant genetic variation.
Here we propose a novel approach incorporating the variation in both the nematodes and host plant, and treat their intimate interaction as one single co-evolving, super-organism, to identify polymorphism in the genome mediating quantitative resistance. By treating them as one single organism, we consider the nematode-plant interaction as one integrated gene network, a supergenome with multiple loci interacting one to another between both nematodes and plants.
The goal of this project is to test the supergenome concept using root-knot nematode Meloidogyne hapla and tomato as model organism to identify genetic location that influence gene expression of the "opposite" organism (interspecies eQTL). We will do that by assessing the genetic variation in gene expression of both M. hapla and tomato by deep RNA sequencing in nematode infected tissue.