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

  • A membrane-bound ankyrin repeat protein confers race-specific leaf rust disease resistance in wheat
    Kolodziej, Markus C.; Singla, Jyoti; Sanchez-Martin, Javier; Zbinden, Helen; Simkova, Hana; Karafiatova, Miroslava; Dolezel, Jaroslav; Gronnier, Julien; Poretti, Manuel; Glauser, Gaetan; Zhu, Wangsheng; Koster, Philipp; Zipfel, Cyril; Wicker, Thomas; Krattinger, Simon; Keller, Beat
    Nature Communications,  DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-20777-x FEB 11 2021
  • A highly differentiated region of wheat chromosome 7AL encodes a Pm1a immune receptor that recognizes its corresponding AvrPm1a effector from Blumeria graminis
    Hewitt, Tim; Muller, Marion C.; Molnar, Istvan; Mascher, Martin; Holusova, Katerina; et al.
    New Phytologist    DOI: 10.1111/nph.17075  DEC 2020
  • Multiple wheat genomes reveal global variation in modern breeding
    Walkowiak, Sean; Gao, Liangliang; Monat, Cecile; Haberer, Georg; Kassa, Mulualem T.; et al.
    Nature   DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2961-x  DEC 10 2020
  • Single residues in the LRR domain of the wheat PM3A immune receptor can control the strength and the spectrum of the immune response
    Lindner, Stefan; Keller, Bettina; Singh, Simrat P.; Hasenkamp, Zsuzsanna; Jung, Esther; et al.
    Plant Journal  DOI: 10.1111/tpj.14917 Published: SEP 2020
  • The NLR-Annotator Tool Enables Annotation of the Intracellular Immune Receptor Repertoire
    Steuernagel, Burkhard; Witek, Kamil; Krattinger, Simon G.; Ramirez-Gonzalez, Ricardo H.; Schoonbeek, Henk-jan; et al.
    Plant Physiology  DOI: 10.1104/pp.19.01273  Published: JUN 2020
  • 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
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