A Systems Approach to Disease Resistance Against Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens in lettuce



The fungal pathogens Botrytis cinerea and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum have similar necrotrophic lifestyles, large host ranges and cause serious disease on many horticultural crops. Both fungi can cause substantial losses on field-grown and protected lettuce crops, an industry worth almost £200M annually in the UK. B. cinerea is a particular problem post-harvest, whereas S. sclerotiorum can result in up to 50% crop loss pre-harvest. Chemical control is problematic as few actives are available, the number of sprays is restricted and timing is difficult. Moreover, the fungicides are medium to high risk for development of resistance. Development of durable resistance in the crop is a more sustainable solution, but has been an intransigent problem for breeders. The aim of this proposal is to demonstrate that a novel approach to breeding for durable pathogen resistance is possible, and that it could be used in a wide range of horticultural crops affected by these promiscuous pathogens. We will utilize a systems biology approach (successfully deployed in the model plant Arabidopsis) and combine this with quantitative genetic studies in lettuce to identify novel genes for increasing the resistance of lettuce to both B. cinerea and S. sclerotiorum. This project will provide a foundation for developing similar resistance to these pathogens in other horticultural crops.

Project code:
CP 152 (BBSRC HAPI project BB/M017923/1)
18 May 2015 - 30 September 2018
BBSRC (HAPI) / AHDB Horticulture
AHDB sector cost:
Project leader:


CP 152 Annual GS Report 2016 CP 152 Project Update 2017 CP 152_Report_Final_GS_2019

About this project

Aims and Objectives: The overall objective of this proposal is to demonstrate how systems biology approaches can be exploited to enable breeding of resistance to ubiquitous pathogens in horticultural crops. We will profile the transcriptome of lettuce following pathogen infection and elucidate network models underlying this response. Network analysis, along with quantitative genetic studies in lettuce, will identify novel alleles for increasing the resistance of lettuce to both Botrytis cinerea and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, two important fungal pathogens.
Specific objectives are to:
1. Use network modelling to identify key regulatory genes in lettuce influencing susceptibility to B. cinerea and S. sclerotiorum.
2. Identify natural resistance to B. cinerea and S. sclerotiorum in a lettuce diversity set 
3. Generate lettuce populations for mapping of quantitative resistance against both pathogens.
4. Integrate mapping, expression and sequence data to identify markers for beneficial alleles in lettuce
5. Produce pre-breeding material for the development of disease resistant lettuce cultivars.