The cereal genomes: hidden treasures for evolutionary genomics and agronomy

We are studying the genomes of the grass species wheat, barley and rice to analyze genome evolution in cereals. Plant genomes generally evolve much more rapidly than animal genomes and we want to understand  the underlying molecular mechanisms. These studies in evolutionary genomics have already given surprising results: for the genomic regions analyzed to date, we found complete restructuring of the intergenic regions within 1 to 3 million years, a much faster and dramatic evolution than previously assumed.

The wheat genome is very large (5x the size of the human genome) and complex. The knowledge on cereal genome structure is used in our group for the molecular isolation of agronomically important genes from wheat and barley. We have recently isolated the first two resistance genes against the fungal diseases leaf rust and powdery mildew of wheat. We are now studying their activity and the evolution of resistance at the molecular level. 

The different projects conducted in the research group strongly depend on the use of genomic technologies as well as advanced bioinformatics.

Recent Publications

  • From laboratory to the field: biological control of Fusarium graminearum on infected maize crop residues
    Gimeno, A.; Kagi, A.; Drakopoulos, D.; Banziger, I.; Lehmann, E.; Forrer, H. -R.; Keller, B; Vogelgsang, S
    Journal Of Applied Microbiology  10.1111/jam.14634  Early Access: APR 2020
  • Cross-Kingdom RNAi of Pathogen Effectors Leads to Quantitative Adult Plant Resistance in Wheat
    Schaefer, LK ; Parlange, F; Buchmann, G; Jung, E ; Wehrli, A ; Herren, G; Muller, MC; Stehlin, J ; Schmid, R; Wicker, T; Keller, B; Bourras, S
    Frontiers In Plant Science  DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2020.00253 Published: MAR 10 2020
  • Guidelines for the use of flow cytometry and cell sorting in immunological studies (second edition)
    Cossarizza, Andrea; Chang, Hyun-Dong; Radbruch, Andreas; Acs, Andreas; Adam, Dieter; et al.
    European Journal Of Immunology,  DOI: 10.1002/eji.201970107
  • TaqMan qPCR for Quantification of Clonostachys rosea Used as a Biological Control Agent Against Fusarium graminearum
    Gimeno, A; Sohlberg, E; Pakula, T; Limnell, J; Keller, B; Laitila, A; Vogelgsang, S
    FRONTIERS IN MICROBIOLOGY, 10 10.3389/fmicb.2019.01627 JUL 16 2019
  • Abscisic acid is a substrate of the ABC transporter encoded by the durable wheat disease resistance gene Lr34
    Krattinger, SG; Kang, J; Braunlich, S; Boni, R; Chauhan, H; Selter, LL; Robinson, MD; Schmid, MW; Wiederhold, E; Hensel, G; Kumlehn, J; Sucher, J; Martinoia, E; Keller, B
    NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 223 (2):853-866; 10.1111/nph.15815 JUL 2019
  • The AvrPm3-Pm3 effector-NLR interactions control both race-specific resistance and host-specificity of cereal mildews on wheat
    Bourras, S; Kunz, L; Xue, MF; Praz, CR; Muller, MC; Kalin, C; Schlafli, M; Ackermann, P; Fluckiger, S; Parlange, F; Menardo, F; Schaefer, LK; Ben-David, R; Roffler, S; Oberhaensli, S; Widrig, V; Lindner, S; Isaksson, J; Wicker, T; Yu, DZ; Keller, B
    NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 10 10.1038/s41467-019-10274-1 MAY 23 2019
  • Worldwide phylogeography and history of wheat genetic diversity
    Balfourier, F; Bouchet, S; Robert, S; De Oliveira, R; Rimbert, H; Kitt, J; Choulet, F; Appels, R; Feuillet, C; Keller, B; Praud, S; Baumann, U; Budak, H; Rogers, J; Eversole, K; Alaux, M; Bejar, B; Lafarge, S; Lagendijk, E; Derory, J; Le Gouis, J; Paux, E
    Group Author(s): Int Wheat Genome Sequencing Consor; BreedWheat Consortium
    SCIENCE ADVANCES, 5 (5):10.1126/sciadv.aav0536 MAY 2019
  • Tracing the ancestry of modern bread wheats
    Pont, C; Leroy, T; Seidel, M; Tondelli, A; Duchemin, W; Armisen, D; Lang, D; Bustos-Korts, D; Goue, N; Balfourier, F; Molnar-Lang, M; Lage, J; Kilian, B; Ozkan, H; Waite, D; Dyer, S; Letellier, T; Alaux, M; Russell, J; Keller, B; van Eeuwijk, F; Spannagl, M; Mayer, KFX; Waugh, R; Stein, N; Cattivelli, L; Haberer, G; Charmet, G; Salse, J; Group Author(s): Wheat Barley Legacy Breeding
    NATURE GENETICS, 51 (5):905-+; 10.1038/s41588-019-0393-z MAY 2019
  • Contribution of recent technological advances to future resistance breeding
    Sanchez-Martin, J; Keller, B
    THEORETICAL AND APPLIED GENETICS, 132 (3):713-732; SI 10.1007/s00122-019-03297-1 MAR 2019
  • The evolutionary roles of hybridization and introgression: investigating species and genomic boundaries using the model plant system Primula (Primulaceae)
    Stubbs, RL; Theodoridis, S; Keller, B; Conti, E
  • A chromosome-scale genome assembly reveals a highly dynamic effector repertoire of wheat powdery mildew
    Muller, MC; Praz, CR; Sotiropoulos, AG; Menardo, F; Kunz, L; Schudel, S; Oberhansli, S; Poretti, M; Wehrli, A; Bourras, S; Keller, B; Wicker, T
    NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 221 (4):2176-2189; 10.1111/nph.15529 MAR 2019
  • Genebank genomics highlights the diversity of a global barley collection
    Milner, SG; Jost, M; Taketa, S; Mazon, ER; Himmelbach, A; Oppermann, M; Weise, S; Knupffer, H; Basterrechea, M; Konig, P; Schuler, D; Sharma, R; Pasam, RK; Rutten, T; Guo, GG; Xu, DD; Zhang, J; Herren, G; Muller, T; Krattinger, SG; Keller, B; Jiang, Y; Gonzalez, MY; Zhao, YS; Habekuss, A; Farber, S; Ordon, F; Lange, M; Borner, A; Graner, A; Reif, JC; Scholz, U; Mascher, M; Stein, N
    NATURE GENETICS, 51 (2):319-+; 10.1038/s41588-018-0266-x FEB 2019
  • Field grown transgenic Pm3e wheat lines show powdery mildew resistance and no fitness costs associated with high transgene expression
    Koller, T; Brunner, S; Herren, G; Sanchez-Martin, J; Hurni, S; Keller, B
    TRANSGENIC RESEARCH, 28 (1):9-20; 10.1007/s11248-018-0099-5 FEB 2019
  • Convergent evolution of a metabolic switch between aphid and caterpillar resistance in cereals
    Li, B; Forster, C; Robert, CAM; Zust, T; Hu, L; Machado, RAR; Berset, JD; Handrick, V; Knauer, T; Hensel, G; Chen, W; Kumlehn, J; Yang, P; Keller, B; Gershenzon, J; Jander, G; Kollner, TG; Erb, M
    SCIENCE ADVANCES, 4 (12):10.1126/sciadv.aat6797 DEC 2018
  • Cereal powdery mildew effectors: a complex toolbox for an obligate pathogen
    Bourras, S; Praz, CR; Spanu, PD; Keller, B
    CURRENT OPINION IN MICROBIOLOGY, 46 26-33; 10.1016/j.mib.2018.01.018 DEC 2018
  • Evolutionary divergence of the rye Pm17 and Pm8 resistance genes reveals ancient diversity
    Singh, SP; Hurni, S; Ruinelli, M; Brunner, S; Sanchez-Martin, J; Krukowski, P; Peditto, D; Buchmann, G; Zbinden, H; Keller, B
    PLANT MOLECULAR BIOLOGY, 98 (3):249-260; 10.1007/s11103-018-0780-3 OCT 2018
  • The wheat ABC transporter Lr34 modifies the lipid environment at the plasma membrane
    Deppe, JP; Rabbat, R; Hortensteiner, S; Keller, B; Martinoia, E; Lopez-Marques, RL
    JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY, 293 (48):18667-18679; 10.1074/jbc.RA118.002532 NOV 30 2018
  • Shifting the limits in wheat research and breeding using a fully annotated reference genome
    Appels, R; Eversole, K; Feuillet, C; Keller, B; … Wicker, T; …; Uauy, C
    SCIENCE, 361 (6403):661-+; 10.1126/science.aar7191 AUG 17 2018
  • Advances in Wheat and Pathogen Genomics: Implications for Disease Control
    Keller, Beat; Wicker, Thomas; Krattinger, Simon G. Edited by: Leach JE; Lindow SE
    ANNUAL REVIEW OF PHYTOPATHOLOGY, VOL 56, 56 67-87; 10.1146/annurev-phyto-080516-035419 2018
  • Chromosome-scale comparative sequence analysis unravels molecular mechanisms of genome dynamics between two wheat cultivars
    Thind, AK; Wicker, T; Muller, T; Ackermann, PM; Steuernagel, B; Wulff, BBH; Spannagl, M; Twardziok, SO; Felder, M; Lux, T; Mayer, KFX; Keller, B; Krattinger, SG
    Group Author(s): Int Wheat Genome Sequencing
    GENOME BIOLOGY, 19 10.1186/s13059-018-1477-2 AUG 17 2018
  • Infection conditions of Fusarium graminearum in barley are variety specific and different from those in wheat
    Schoneberg, T; Musa, T; Forrer, HR; Mascher, F; Bucheli, TD; Bertossa, M; Keller, B; Vogelgsang, S
    EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF PLANT PATHOLOGY, 151 (4):975-989; 10.1007/s10658-018-1434-7 AUG 2018
  • A new player in race-specific resistance
    Keller, Beat; Krattinger, Simon G.
    NATURE PLANTS, 4 (4):197-198; 10.1038/s41477-018-0126-9 APR 2018
  • Transcriptional profiling reveals no response of fungal pathogens to the durable, quantitative Lr34 disease resistance gene of wheat
    Sucher, J; Menardo, F; Praz, CR; Boni, R; Krattinger, SG; Keller, B
    PLANT PATHOLOGY, 67 (4):792-798; MAY 2018
  • Comparative Transcriptomics Reveals How Wheat Responds to Infection by Zymoseptoria tritici
    Authors: Ma, X; Keller, B; McDonald, BA; Palma-Guerrero, J; Wicker, T
  • Pyramiding of transgenic Pm3 alleles in wheat results in improved powdery mildew resistance in the field
    Koller, Teresa; Brunner, Susanne; Herren, Gerhard; et al.
    THEORETICAL AND APPLIED GENETICS  131(4): 861-871,   APR 2018
  • Distinct domains of the AVRPM3(A2/F2) avirulence protein from wheat powdery mildew are involved in immune receptor recognition and putative effector function
    McNally, Kaitlin Elyse; Menardo, Fabrizio; Luthi, Linda; et al.
    NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 218(2):681-695,   APR 2018
  • Non-parent of Origin Expression of Numerous Effector Genes Indicates a Role of Gene Regulation in Host Adaption of the Hybrid Triticale Powdery Mildew Pathogen 
    Praz, Coraline R.; Menardo, Fabrizio; Robinson, Mark D.; et al. 
  • Unlocking the diversity of genebanks: whole-genome marker analysis of Swiss bread wheat and spelt 
    Mueller, Thomas; Schierscher-Viret, Beate; Fossati, Dario; et al. 
Beat Keller

Prof. Dr. Beat Keller
University of Zurich
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
8008 Zurich

Tel: +41 (0)44 634 82 30

Research topics

  • Fungal disease resistance in cereals
  • Structure and evolution of plant genomes
  • Molecular basis of agronomically important traits
  • Root hair development



  • Evolutionary genomics
  • Molecular Agronomy and Plant Breeding
  • Plant Pathology