Background: Brassinosteroid hormones regulate many aspects of plant growth and development. The membrane receptor BRI1 is a central player in the brassinosteroid signaling cascade. Semi-dwarf 'uzu' barley carries a mutation in a conserved domain of the kinase tail of BRI1 and this mutant allele is recognised for its positive contribution to both yield and lodging resistance.
Results: Here we show that uzu barley exhibits enhanced resistance to a range of pathogens. It was due to a combination of preformed, inducible and constitutive defence responses, as determined by a combination of transcriptomic and biochemical studies. Gene expression studies were used to determine that the uzu derivatives are attenuated in downstream brassinosteroid signaling. The reduction of BRI1 RNA levels via virus-induced gene silencing compromised uzu disease resistance.
Conclusions: The pathogen resistance of uzu derivatives may be due to pleiotropic effects of BRI1 or the cascade effects of their repressed BR signaling.