Year of Publication

2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Agriculture

Department

Crop Science

First Advisor

Dr. Hongyan Zhu

Second Advisor

Dr. Todd W. Pfeiffer

Abstract

Anthracnose, caused by the fungal pathogen Colletotrichum trifolii, is one of the most destructive diseases of alfalfa worldwide. Cloning and characterization of the host resistance (R) genes against the pathogen will improve our knowledge of molecular mechanisms underlying host resistance and facilitate the development of resistant alfalfa cultivars. However, the intractable genetic system of cultivated alfalfa, owing to its tetrasomic inheritance and outcrossing nature, limits the ability to carry out genetic analysis in alfalfa. Nonetheless, the model legume Medicago truncatula, a close relative of alfalfa, provides a surrogate for cloning the counterparts of many agronomically important genes in alfalfa. In this study, we used genetic map-based approach to clone RCT1, a host resistance gene against C. trifolii race 1, in M. truncatula. The RCT1 locus was delimited within a physical interval spanning ~200 kilo-bases located on the top of M. truncatula linkage group 4. Complementation tests of three candidate genes on the susceptible alfalfa clones revealed that RCT1 is a member of the Toll-interleukin-1 receptor/nucleotide-binding site/leucine-rich repeat (TIR-NBS-LRR) class of plant R genes and confers broad spectrum anthracnose resistance. Thus, RCT1 offers a novel resource to develop anthracnose-resistant alfalfa cultivars. Furthermore, the cloning of RCT1 also makes a significant contribution to our understanding of host resistance against the fungal genus Colletotrichum.

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