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Steven Scofield

Steven Scofield Profile Picture

Adjunct Associate Professor
Ph.D. Indiana University

Contact Info:

Training Group(s):
Plant Biology

Current Research Interests:

My research interests span the distance between basic and applied plant science. The early portion of my career focused on gaining insight into the mechanisms that lead to activation of plant disease resistance pathways. Now as a USDA-ARS scientist I am working to translate the latest understanding of plant defense pathways, gained from research in model systems, into the development of wheat plants with improved disease resistance.

A necessary part of this translational process is functionally confirming that key genes identified in model plants have similarly crucial roles in the wheat disease resistance pathways in which we are interested. To accomplish this process in wheat, where the crop's hexaploidy makes conventional genetic analysis very complicated, and where its recalcitrance to transformation precludes the application of most T-DNA based gene identification strategies, we have pioneered the development of a virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) system. The VIGS system we have developed is based on the use of Barley Stripe Mosaic Virus (BSMV). The BSMV-VIGS system has proven very effective for the functional dissection of wheat disease resistance pathways and is now being utilized by many of the leading wheat research groups around the world.

My group initially collaborated extensively with other groups that had already been studying wheat pathosystems, however we now have developed our own project addressing the mechanisms of wheat's resistance and susceptibility to Fusarium graminearum, the causal agent of Fusarium head blight (FHB). FHB is a devastating pathogen of wheat and barley. Both crops are particularly vulnerable to FHB if there has been rainfall during anthesis. Infection by F. graminearum causes grain yield reduction and also greatly diminishes grain quality through deposition of mycotoxins. The genetic resistance currently in use is QTL-based and only partially effective. At the time we started our VIGS work no plant genes had been identified as having functional roles in FHB resistance. However, our FHB-VIGS effort has proven quite successful and we have now identified five genes required for resistance and we have also been successful in attracting external funding. We are now beginning to generate transgenic wheat plants that will overexpress genes required for FHB resistance. We are hopeful that some of these constructs will confer FHB resistance to normally susceptible genotypes.

Selected Publications:

van Eck, L., Schultz, T., Leach, J., Scofield, S., Peairs, F., Botha, A-M., and Lapitan, N. Virus-induced gene silencing of WRKY53 and an inducible phenylalanine ammonia-lyase in wheat reduces aphid resistance Plant Biotech J (submitted).

Manning, V., Chu, L., Scofield, SR., and Ciuffetti, L. Intracellular expression of a host-selective toxin, ToxA, in diverse plants phenocopies silencing of a ToxA-interacting protein, ToxABP1. New Phytologist (submitted).

Cakir, C., Gillespie, M., and Scofield, SR. (2010) Rapid Determination of Gene Function by Virus-induced Gene Silencing in Wheat and Barley. Crop Sci. 50: 77-84.

Loutre, C., Wicker, T., Travella, S., Galli, P., Scofield, S., Fahima, T., Feuillet, C., and Keller, B. (2009) Two genes encoding structurally different CC-NB-LRR proteins are required for Lr10-mediated leaf rust resistance in wheat of two ploidy levels. Plant J. 60:1043-54.

Scofield, SR and Nelson R. (2009) Resources for Virus-induced Gene Silencing in the Poaceae. Plant Physiology 149: 152-157.

Mudge, K., Janick J., Scofield S. and Goldschmidt E. (2009) A History of Grafting. Horticultural Reviews Volume 35: 437-487.

Held, M. Penning B., Kessans S, Yong W., Brandt, A, Scofield S., and Carpita N. (2008) Viral-induced gene silencing of cellulose synthase and cellulose synthase-like genes in barley reveals common regulatory control points involving small interfering RNAs. PNAS 105:20534-9.

Cakir, C. and Scofield, S. (2008) Evaluating the ability of the Barley stripe mosaic virus-induced gene silencing system to simultaneously silence two wheat genes. Cereal Research Communications 36: 217-222.

Sindu A, Chintamanani, S, Brandt, A.M., Zanis, M. Scofield, SR and Johal, G. (2008) A guardian of grasses: Specific origin and conservation of a unique disease resistance gene in the grass lineage. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105: 1762-1767.

Scofield, SR, Huang, L. Brandt, AS and Gill, BS Development of a virus-induced gene silencing system for hexaploid wheat and its use in functional analysis of the Lr21-mediated leaf rust resistance pathway. Plant Physiol. 138: 2165-2173, 2005.

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