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Unraveling Disease Resistance Gene Functions

Andris Kleinhofs
Unraveling Disease Resistance Gene Functions

Dr. Andris Kleinhofs’ research focuses on cloning and studying disease resistance genes and their function in order to provide knowledge that can be used to design improved ways of protecting crops from pathogens. Most disease resistance genes that are deployed over a wide acreage are defeated by pathogens in a few to 10 years. Once a disease resistance gene is cloned, Dr. Kleinhofs and his colleagues analyze how it is expressed at the mRNA and protein levels, and how the protein interacts with the pathogen avirulence factors and cellular proteins to confer resistance.

Stem rust imageHe and his laboratory colleagues have successfully cloned and characterized two novel genes providing resistance to different pathotypes of the stem rust pathogen Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici. Research continues in determining the mode of action of these two genes.

Genetic and physical maps of the splot blotch resistance gene Rcs5 have been developed, which will lead to the cloning of the gene and allow further characterization. The Rcs5 gene confers resistance to a necrotrophic pathogen, therefore its mode of action is expected to be different. Necrotrophic organisms are often the cause of severe crop diseases that are difficult to control, such as Fusarium head blight, root rot, spot blotch, etc.

Similarly, the laboratory has developed a genetic and physical map of the chromosome 2H Fusarium Head Blight resistance QTL. This work will facilitate the development of barley cultivars with resistance to Fusarium Head Blight. Cloning of the gene(s) involved will lead to an understanding of this devastating disease and how to control it.

The laboratory also focuses on molecular marker assisted selection for developing barley lines with high malting quality, adaptable to the Pacific Northwest.

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Contact Information
Andris Kleinhofs, Ph.D.
Professor and Scientist
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
School of Molecular Biosciences

Washington State University
PO Box 646420
Johnson Hall 259
Pullman, WA 99164-6420

Telephone: 509-335-4389
Fax: 509-335-8674
E-mail: andyk@wsu.edu 

Dr. Andris Kleinhofs received his Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Nebraska in 1967. He joined Washington State University in 1967 as an assistant professor and was promoted to full professor in 1977. He holds a joint position with the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and the School of Molecular Biosciences.  His research emphasis has been on plant molecular genetics using barley as the experimental organism throughout his career. He has taught courses in general genetics, eukaryotic molecular genetics and plant molecular genetics.  Major research accomplishments include development and characterization of the azide mutagenesis system for barley, characterization of the barley nitrate assimilation pathway (the first nitrate reductase to be cloned from any eukaryote was from barley from his lab.), leadership in the molecular mapping of the barley genome and map-based cloning and analysis of barley stem rust disease resistance genes. The barley stem rust resistance genes Rpg1 and Rpg5 were recently cloned by a map-based approach. Current emphasis is on understanding the mechanism of action of plant disease resistance genes.