Thesis: Association of DNA methylation changes with resistance against Leptosphaeria maculans in Brassica napus
Transcriptional modification plays a major role in plant defense mechanisms. Recent research has revealed a relationship between epigenetic changes, including but not limited to DNA methylation and demethylation, to the changes in expression pattern of defense genes under stress conditions. This project is intended to investigate the genome-wide DNA methylation in B. napus cultivars and its role in resistance against Leptosphaeria maculans. Genome-wide DNA methylation changes will be analysed between infected and uninfected cultivars, segregating for resistance and susceptibility at different plant growth stages. Phenotypic screening with L. maculans isolates will also be performed to look at both qualitative and quantitative resistance. The results will provide new insight into genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in canola cultivars and will help to understand the role of DNA methylation in promoting plant defense against blackleg disease.
Why my research is important
Brassicas are one of the most important food sources worldwide. Blackleg disease, caused by the fungal pathogen L. maculans, is responsible for a substantial yield loss in Brassicas annually worldwide. Epigenetic changes including, but are not limited to, DNA methylation that modifies gene expression patterns during growth stages and stress conditions. These changes can play an important role in protecting plants from biotic and abiotic stresses. Scientist and breeders are now more interested in epigenetics, considering it as a breeding tool that could be employed to improve important traits in plants in a shorter period of time compare to other breeding methods. This project has a major focus on detection of DNA methylation changes between infected and uninfected canola lines. It is hoped that the outcome of this project can reveal new aspects/roles of epigenetics in plant resistance to help breeders improve plants tolerance to pathogens.