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Brachypodium distachyon: a new pathosystem to study Fusarium head blight and other Fusarium diseases of wheat

Antoine Peraldi1*, Giovanni Beccari2, Andrew Steed1 and Paul Nicholson1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Disease and Stress Biology, John Innes Centre, Colney Lane, Norwich, NR4 7UH, UK

2 Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie e Ambientali, Facoltà di Agraria, Università degli Studi di Perugia, Borgo XX Giugno 74, Perugia, 06121, Italy

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BMC Plant Biology 2011, 11:100  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-11-100

Published: 3 June 2011



Fusarium species cause Fusarium head blight (FHB) and other important diseases of cereals. The causal agents produce trichothecene mycotoxins such as deoxynivalenol (DON). The dicotyledonous model species Arabidopsis thaliana has been used to study Fusarium-host interactions but it is not ideal for model-to-crop translation. Brachypodium distachyon (Bd) has been proposed as a new monocotyledonous model species for functional genomic studies in grass species. This study aims to assess the interaction between the most prevalent FHB-causing Fusarium species and Bd in order to develop and exploit Bd as a genetic model for FHB and other Fusarium diseases of wheat.


The ability of Fusarium graminearum and Fusarium culmorum to infect a range of Bd tissues was examined in various bioassays which showed that both species can infect all Bd tissues examined, including intact foliar tissues. DON accumulated in infected spike tissues at levels similar to those of infected wheat spikes. Histological studies revealed details of infection, colonisation and host response and indicate that hair cells are important sites of infection. Susceptibility to Fusarium and DON was assessed in two Bd ecotypes and revealed variation in resistance between ecotypes.


Bd exhibits characteristics of susceptibility highly similar to those of wheat, including susceptibility to spread of disease in the spikelets. Bd is the first reported plant species to allow successful infection on intact foliar tissues by FHB-causing Fusarium species. DON appears to function as a virulence factor in Bd as it does in wheat. Bd is proposed as a valuable model for undertaking studies of Fusarium head blight and other Fusarium diseases of wheat.

Fusarium; Brachypodium distachyon; wheat; deoxynivalenol; model-to-crop translation; disease resistance; host-pathogen interaction