Sugar transporters are potential targets to develop broad-spectrum resistance against rice diseases

Rice is a staple food crop in the world and the demand for rice is increasing every year. There is an endless challenge of enhancing the rice production to meet the ever-growing human population. Rice is affected by several biotic stresses that continue to be one of the major constraints in rice production and the problem is getting severe due to a rapidly changing climate. 

Biotic stress includes several plant pathogens viz., bacteria, viruses, fungi, insects, nematodes, and others. These pathogens mainly infect plant cells at different parts to acquire sugars, to fuel their growth and reproduction.

Plant “Sugar Will Eventually be Exported by Transporter” (SWEETs) have been involved in various developmental processes of plants where sugar efflux is essential, including sucrose loading of phloem for long-distance sugar transport, nectar secretion, embryo and pollen nutrition, and maintenance of sugar homeostasis in plant organs. Especially, SWEETs are selectively targeted by plant pathogens togain access to host sugars.

In plants, when SWEET function is blocked, plant pathogens growth is reduced, and their virulence is also restricted. The lifestyle of the pathogens may dominate which SWEET genes are recruited for their own growth and proliferation from host.

In collaboration with CEPLAS, we are trying to analyse the possible role of SWEETs as susceptibility factors in a wide range of rice major diseases.  Here we test diverse strains of rice pathogens to validate SWEET transporter gene induction. We then identify the mechanisms by which SWEETtransporter genes are induced and finally localize host gene induction to gain insights into the possible susceptibility mechanism to develop broad-spectrum resistance in rice.

Planter’s Punch

Under the heading Planter’s Punch we present each month one special aspect of the CEPLAS research programme. All contributions are prepared by our young researchers.

Further Reading

Rao et al 2019.  Pectin induced transcriptome of a Rhizoctoniasolani strain causing sheath blight disease in rice reveals insights on key genes and RNAi machinery for development of pathogen derived resistance. Plant Mol Biol. 100(1-2):59-71. 



Yugander et al 2018. Incorporation of the novel bacterial blight resistance gene Xa38 into the genetic background of elite rice variety Improved Samba Mahsuri. PLOS ONE 13(5): e0198260


About the Author

Dr. Yugander Arra is an Indian Plant Biotechnologist and he aims to understand the possible role of SWEETs as susceptibility factors against rice pathogens to develop broad-spectrum resistance. Before joining CEPLAS he developed broad-spectrum resistance in rice (Samba Mahsuri and APMS 6B) against bacterial blight disease using marker assisted backcross breeding with Dr. RM. Sundaram and Dr GS. Laha at the ICAR-Indian Institute of Rice Research, Hyderabad, India.