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Dr Jane Thomas


Exploring mechanisms of pathogen-host interaction in Botrytis fabae and Vicia faba    Chocolate spot, caused by Botrytis fabae, is an important disease of faba bean (Vicia faba) which can cause severe crop losses. Although several lines of V. faba with partial resistance are known, there are currently no fully resistant commercial cultivars available. Some biochemical markers for partial resistance, e.g. wyerone acid production, have been described (1), but no major resistance genes or molecular markers for resistance have been identified (2). It is also unknown if resistance is specific to strains of B. fabae. Very little is known about the genetic diversity of B. fabae within the UK and beyond; insight into potential differences between B. fabae isolates could enable greater understanding into the genetic basis of pathogen virulence and host resistance mechanisms. NIAB currently holds over 200 B. fabae isolates from many parts of the UK and over 900 varieties and landraces of Vicia faba, including lines described as partly resistant to B. fabae. Both collections would form part of the basis of this investigation. Botrytis cinerea, a closely related pathogen, also infects faba bean but symptoms remain insignificant. Pathogen-host interaction in B. cinerea has been extensively studied and its partly annotated genome has been published (3). Comparative genomics in B. fabae with B. cinerea as a reference, transcriptome analyses and effector screening would be used to identify virulence genes.


  1. Nawar, H. F. and Kuti, J. O. (2003), Wyerone Acid Phytoalexin Synthesis and Peroxidase Activity as Markers for Resistance of Broad Beans to Chocolate Spot Disease. Journal of Phytopathology, 151: 564–570. doi: 10.1046/j.1439-0434.2003.00732.x    
  2. Gnanasambandam, A.; Paull, J.; Torres, A.; Kaur, S.; Leonforte, T.; Li, H.; Zong, X.; Yang, T.; Materne, M. ( 2012), Impact of Molecular Technologies on Faba Bean (Vicia faba L.) Breeding Strategies. Agronomy, 2: 132-166; doi:10.3390/agronomy2030132   
  3. The Broad Institute's B. cinerea genome sequencing project database:

Second supervisor:

Anne Webb