Powdery mildew, caused by Blumeria graminis f. sp. tritici (Bgt), is a widely occurring foliar disease of wheat worldwide. Wild emmer wheat (WEW, Triticum dicoccoides) (AABB, 2n = 4x = 28), the progenitor of the cultivated tetraploid and hexaploid wheat, is highly resistant to powdery mildew, and many resistance alleles were identified in this wild species. However, only Pm41 that encodes a nucleotide‐binding leucine‐rich repeat (NLR) protein has been cloned using a map‐based cloning approach (Li et al ., 2020). NLR proteins account for the major gene families of disease resistance genes (Kourelis and van der Hoorn, 2018) and are subjected to epigenetic regulation including histone acetylation and DNA methylation (Li et al ., 2019). Only 31%–34% of wheat NLRs were shared across all genomes, and the numbers of unique NLR varied from 22 to 192 per wheat cultivar (Walkowiak et al ., 2020). These presence–absence variations (PAVs) of NLRs are obstacles for isolating disease resistance genes based on reference genome sequences. Bulked segregant analysis (BSA), an approach for identifying genetic variations associated with disease resistance genes, has been proven effective in mapping and cloning wheat Pm5e gene in combination with next‐generation sequencing (NGS) technology (Xie et al ., 2020). The combination of BSA and core genome targeted sequencing (CGT‐Seq), an approach to capture the major types of histone modification in the genome (Qi et al ., 2018), might be used as an effective approach to capture sequence variations and PAVs in wheat NLRs between disease resistant and susceptible genotypes.
Powdery mildew resistance gene MlWE18 was identified in common wheat line 3D249 (Figure 1a), an introgression derivative of WEW accession WE18 (G‐360‐M), and initially mapped within a 23.5 cM genetic interval on chromosome 7AL (Han et al ., 2009). In order to fine mapping and cloning of MlWE18 , a CGT‐Seq based BSA pipeline was developed (Figure 1b). We selected 30 homozygous resistant and 30 susceptible F3 families from the Xuezao × 3D249 mapping population to construct a pair of phenotypically contrasting DNA bulks. Chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP‐Seq) was performed for three histone marks H3K27me3, H3K4me3, and H3K36me3 that are closely associated with gene activity. After quality control, 423 924 608 and 358 879 346 reads for the resistant and susceptible DNA bulks, respectively, were obtained for subsequent analysis.
Firstly, candidate chromosome region potentially associated with MlWE18 was located. Following stringent mapping and filtering steps, 8,461 high confidence single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were detected (Figure 1c). The △SNP‐index method (Takagi et al ., 2013) was applied to calculate the quantitative SNP differences between the two ChIPed DNA bulks for each of consecutive chromosome window. Further screening with regard to the read numbers and genotypes resulted in 5.32 Mb interval significantly associated with disease resistance on chromosome 7AL (724.21–729.53 Mb) (Figure 1d). To detect sequence variations associated with the resistance allele, the ChIPed sequences from the susceptible and resistant pools were de novo assembled, resulting in 655 192 and 685 858 contigs, respectively. The sequences specifically present in the resistant pool represented the candidate sequences within or near by the MlWE18 locus. The resistant bulk‐specific contigs within the physical interval detected above were selected and mapped to the Chinese Spring (CS) reference genome. Since CS was susceptible to powdery mildew, we focussed on sequences that were partially mapped to CS (containing unmapped fragments, or with insertions or deletions). A total of 479 CGT‐Seq‐derived contigs were identified in the resistant pool and sequence annotation revealed that five contigs contained NB‐ARC domain, with lengths ranging from 595 to 2128 bp and sequence identities ranging from 15% to 56% between each other. Significantly, one 2128 bp contig (resk36_3047604) was highly homologous (99% identity) to the diploid T. urartu wheat Pm60 sequence (Zou et al ., 2018), with only 4 single nucleotide variations (SNVs) (Figure 1e).
In order to fine map the MlWE18 locus, the five contigs identified by CGT‐Seq together with sequences from the 5.32 Mb 7AL physical intervals of CS were used to develop polymorphic markers (CGT1‐CGT5; M83‐M405) linked to MlWE18. Since MlIW172 was mapped to the same chromosomal region as MLWE18 (Ouyang et al ., 2014), polymorphisms of markers WGGC4660, WGGC4662, and WGGC4657 linked to MlIW172 were also tested. After screening a mapping population of 1113 F2 plants (2226 gametes) derived from the Xuezao × 3D249 cross, three CGT‐Seq contig‐derived markers CGT1, CGT2, and CGT3 were found to co‐segregated with MlWE18, whereas CGT5 was closely linked (~0.05 cM) (Figure 1f). No polymorphism was detected between Xuezao and 3D249 for CGT4. CGT1, CGT2, and CGT3 were dominant markers detected only in the resistant 3D249, but not in the susceptible Xuezao, CS, T. urartu G1812, and WEW Zavitan, indicating PAVs of these NLR‐like sequences between genotypes. Finally, MlWE18 was mapped within a 0.09 cM genetic interval between markers WGGC4660 and WGGC4657, and co‐segregated with M306, M303, CGT1, CGT2, and CGT3 (Figure 1f), corresponding to a 334 kb genomic region in the CS 7AL reference genome. Annotation of the genomic region identified a MYB‐related protein, a major facilitator superfamily (MFS) protein, two Syg1/Pho81/XPRI (SPX) domain‐containing proteins, and three nucleotide‐binding sites with leucine‐rich repeats proteins named NLR1, NLR2, and NLR3 (Figure 1f). RT‐PCR was conducted to test the expression of the 7 predicted genes and the 4 CGT‐Seq derived contigs residing in the MlWE18 genomic region. The results indicated that only the TraesCS7A02G553800 (MYB) allele and Pm60‐related contig resk36_3047604 (CGT3, NLRWE18 ) were expressed in 3D249 before and after Bgt isolate E09 inoculation whereas the others were not (Figure 1g). Since contig resk36_3047604 was highly homologous to the Pm60 ‐encoded NBS‐LRR protein and was up‐regulated in 3D249 (Figure 1h), the NLRWE18 allele in 3D249 was prioritized for validation as candidate for MlWE18.
The genomic DNA and full‐length cDNA sequences of NLRWE18 were cloned from the resistant 3D249, and no alternative splicing variant was found in the gene body. The NLRWE18 contained only one exon and encoded a typical CC‐NBS‐LRR protein with 1454 amino acids that was allelic to Pm60 with six synonymous and three nonsynonymous SNPs (Figure 1i). To further validate the function of NLRWE18 in resistance to Bgt isolate E09, construct ProNLRWE18 : NLRWE18 driven by the native promoter was transformed into the susceptible common wheat cultivar Fielder by Agrobacterium ‐mediated (strain EHA105) transformation. The construct contained a 12 230 bp genomic fragment with 2103 bp of presumed native promoter, 4365 bp exon region, and 5762 bp terminator (Figure 1j). Four positive T0 transgenic plants with the confirmed transgene sequence were obtained. All of the positive transgenic T0 plants and their transgene‐positive T1 descendants were highly resistant to Bgt isolate E09 (Figure 1k). These results indicated that NLRWE18 is functional powdery mildew resistance allele MlWE18 (Genebank accession MW375697).
Most of the cloned wheat disease resistance genes are NLRs that tend to be PAVs between the resistance and susceptible genotypes, especially the genes derived from wild relatives (Li et al ., 2020; Walkowiak et al ., 2020). In this study, we cloned the powdery mildew resistance allele MlWE18 (NLRWE18 ) whose locus is not present in the wheat reference genomes using a combined BSA and CGT‐seq strategies. The major advantage of this approach is that it is mostly reference genome free and can identify genes which are not present in the reference genomes but in a specific donor line. The proposed bulked segregant CGT‐Seq approach and the computational strategy can be used in further genetic mapping of genes controlling important agronomic traits in wheat and other crops with large genomes.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Z.L. and Y.Z. conceived the project. Q.W., Y.C., P.Z., H.Z., G.G., P.L., and M.L. performed fine mapping and map‐based cloning. F.Z. performed the CGT‐Seq experiment and data analysis. F.Z., J.X., L.D., and S.M. performed bioinformatic and micro‐collinearity analysis. T.F. and E.N. provided wild emmer wheat materials. Q.W., F.Z., H.L., T.F, Y.Z., and Z.L. wrote the manuscript.
We are grateful to Profs. Qixin Sun and Tsomin Yang, China Agricultural University, for their advice and support during the research. Many thanks to Profs. Zhengqiang Ma and Haiyan Jia of Nanjing Agricultural University for information exchange. This work was financially supported by the National Program on Research and Development of Transgenic Plants (2016ZX08009‐003‐001), National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFD0100302), and National Science Foundation of China (31971876).