Loss of Function of a Proline-Containing Protein Confers Durable Disease Resistance in Rice

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Science  21 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5943, pp. 998-1001
DOI: 10.1126/science.1175550

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Blast disease is a devastating fungal disease of rice, one of the world’s staple foods. Race-specific resistance to blast disease has usually not been durable. Here, we report the cloning of a previously unknown type of gene that confers non–race-specific resistance and its successful use in breeding. Pi21 encodes a proline-rich protein that includes a putative heavy metal–binding domain and putative protein-protein interaction motifs. Wild-type Pi21 appears to slow the plant’s defense responses, which may support optimization of defense mechanisms. Deletions in its proline-rich motif inhibit this slowing. Pi21 is separable from a closely linked gene conferring poor flavor. The resistant pi21 allele, which is found in some strains of japonica rice, could improve blast resistance of rice worldwide.

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