Because of the frequent breakdown of major resistance (R) genes, identification of new partial R genes against rice blast disease is an important goal of rice breeding.

 In this study, we used a core collection of the Rice Diversity Panel II (C-RDP-II), which contains 584 rice accessions and are genotyped with 700 000 single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. The C-RDP-II accessions were inoculated with three blast strains collected from different rice-growing regions in China. Genome-wide association study identified 27 loci associated with rice blast resistance (LABRs). Among them, 22 LABRs were not associated with any known blast R genes or QTLs. Interestingly, a nucleotide-binding site leucine-rich repeat (NLR) gene cluster exists in the LABR12 region on chromosome 4. One of the NLR genes is highly conserved in multiple partially resistant rice cultivars, and its expression is significantly up-regulated at the early stages of rice blast infection. Knockout of this gene via CRISPR-Cas9 in transgenic plants partially reduced blast resistance to four blast strains. The identification of this new non-strain specific partial R gene, tentatively named rice blast Partial Resistance gene 1 (PiPR1), provides genetic material that will be useful for understanding the partial resistance mechanism and for breeding durably resistant cultivars against blast disease of rice.





Figure 2: Genome-wide association analysis of disease resistance using C-RDP-II and three M. oryzae strains. The Manhattan plots of SNPs on 12 rice chromosomes. The x-axis indicates the genomic coordinates, and the y-axis indicates the association score of each SNP; the score represents a transformed P value, -log10P. The red arrows indicate the loci that are co-localized with previously mapped or cloned rice blast resistance genes, and the purple arrows indicate the novel loci identified in this study.