ERC Starting Grant 'VariWhiM'
Conseil Européen de la Recherche Starting Grant (StG), LS9, ERC-2013-StG
« Understanding White mold disease quantitative resistance using natural variation (VariWhiM) »
scientific coordinator: Sylvain Raffaele, 11/2013 - 10/2018, 1500 k€.
Fungal plant pathogens are major and rising threats for global food security and environment sustainability. Necrotrophic fungi, that kill host cells for infection, are among the most devastating plant pathogens, yet our knowledge on the molecular bases of plant interaction with necrotrophs is one of the least advanced in the field of plant pathology. The lack of appropriate genetic resources and accurate high-throughput methods has prevented holistic approaches of quantitative immunity to necrotrophs. We recently documented extensive variation in the response to the necrotrophic White Mold fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum in natural populations of Arabidopsis thaliana, a model organism for plant biology. Using the latest developments in comparative genomics, our work over the last years has significantly improved our understanding of the emergence of virulence in filamentous plant pathogens. In this project, we will take advantage of this dual expertise on plants and pathogens to propose converging innovative approaches initiated from each partner of the interaction to provide the most complete characterization of plant quantitative immunity to necrotrophs. We will use a unique combination of genome-wide association genetics and comparative patho-genomics to dissect the components mediating quantitative immunity to necrotrophs, study their contribution to the evolution of resistance and their interplay with other stress responses. The selected pathosystem will also allow to rapidly exploit this knowledge to develop innovative approaches for breeding crop plants resistant to the White Mold disease. Through this multi-disciplinary research program, combining cutting-edge genome wide association mapping, comparative genomics, reverse genetics, ecogenomics, cell biology and biochemistry we will greatly advance our understanding of the mechanisms underlying plant immunity and demonstrate the impact of this knowledge on resistance breeding.