Resistance to pathogens is essential for survival of wild and cultivated plants. Pathogen susceptibility causes major losses of crop yield and quality. Durable field resistance combined with high yield and other superior agronomic characters are therefore, important objectives in every crop breeding program. Precision and efficacy of resistance breeding can be enhanced by molecular diagnostic tools, which result from knowledge of the molecular basis of resistance and susceptibility. Breeding uses resistance conferred by single R genes and polygenic quantitative resistance. The latter is partial but considered more durable. Molecular mechanisms of plant pathogen interactions are elucidated mainly in experimental systems involving single R genes, whereas most genes important for quantitative resistance in crops like potato are unknown. Quantitative resistance of potato to Phytophthora infestans causing late blight is often compromised by late plant maturity, a negative agronomic character. Our objective was to identify candidate genes for quantitative resistance to late blight not compromised by late plant maturity. We used diagnostic DNA-markers to select plants with different field levels of maturity corrected resistance (MCR) to late blight and compared their leaf transcriptomes before and after infection with P. infestans using SuperSAGE (serial analysis of gene expression) technology and next generation sequencing. We identified 2034 transcripts up or down regulated upon infection, including a homolog of the kiwi fruit allergen kiwellin. 806 transcripts showed differential expression between groups of genotypes with contrasting MCR levels. The observed expression patterns suggest that MCR is in part controlled by differential transcript levels in uninfected plants. Functional annotation suggests that, besides biotic and abiotic stress responses, general cellular processes such as photosynthesis, protein biosynthesis, and degradation play a role in MCR.
Keywords: SAGE; late blight; marker-assisted selection; potato; transcript profiling.