Soybean resistance to Phakopsora pachyrhizi, the cause of soybean rust, has been characterized by the following three infection types: (i) immune response (IM; complete resistance) with no visible lesions, (ii) resistant reaction with reddish brown (RB) lesions (incomplete resistance), and (iii) susceptible reaction with tan-colored (TAN) lesions. Based on visual assessments of these phenotypes, single gene resistance in soybean to P. pachyrhizi has been documented, but colonization within infected tissues based on fungal DNA (FDNA) levels in different soybean genotypes had not been analyzed. The research used a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR) assay to compare visual disease assessment to FDNA in controlled inoculation experiments using two isolates of P. pachyrhizi. The objective of the first experiment was to compare data from digital visual disease assessment to FDNA from Q-PCR assays using digital visual disease assessment using five resistant soybean genotypes (one IM and four RB) and five susceptible genotypes (TAN). The objective of the second experiment was to quantify FDNA using Q-PCR at different time points after inoculation to determine if levels of fungal colonization differed in five soybean genotypes with different levels of resistance (one IM, two RB, and two TAN). For experiment 1, the numbers of uredinia and uredinia per lesion on four of the five resistant soybean genotypes were lower (P < 0.05) than the other six genotypes. Significant differences (P < 0.05) in FDNA concentrations were found among soybean genotypes with TAN lesions and among soybean genotypes with RB lesions. Soybean cultivar UG5 (IM phenotype) had significantly less (P < 0.05) FDNA than all of the other genotypes. Some genotypes that produced TAN lesions had significantly lower (P < 0.05) or non-significantly different FDNA concentrations compared to those genotypes that produced RB lesions. For experiment 2, the regression of FDNA on days after inoculation was significant (P < 0.01) with positive slopes for all genotypes except for UG5, in which FDNA declined over time, indicating a reduction of fungal colonization. The results of this Q-PCR FDNA screening technique demonstrates its use to distinguish different types of resistance, and could be used to facilitate the evaluation of soybean breeding populations, where precise quantification of incomplete and/or partial resistance is needed to identify and map quantitative trait loci.
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