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

  • 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,   Published: 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,   Published: 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. 
    FRONTIERS IN PLANT SCIENCE, 9: JAN 30 2018 Document Type: Article (Details)
  • Unlocking the diversity of genebanks: whole-genome marker analysis of Swiss bread wheat and spelt 
    Mueller, Thomas; Schierscher-Viret, Beate; Fossati, Dario; et al. 
    THEORETICAL AND APPLIED GENETICS, 131 (2): 407-416 FEB 2018 Article (Details)
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