Participating Faculty
Diter von Wettstein
Name:Diter von Wettstein
Department:Crop & Soil Sciences, WSU
Credentials:1953~Ph.D. University of Tübingen ú Biology, Biochemistry 1953~Ph.D. University of Stockholm ú Genetics
Office:Johnson 267
Mailing Address:

Crop & Soil Sciences
PO Box 646420
Pullman, WA 99164-6420

Research Interests

Biotechnology of barley and wheat improvement

Research Summary

Celiac disease is the most common food-sensitive enteropathological condition in humans (1 in 100). It is caused by an autoimmune reaction against wheat, barley and rye grain storage proteins. In human leukocyte antigen (HLA) DQ2- or DQ8-positive individuals an exposure to these “gluten” proteins can lead to a painful chronic erasure of the microvilli of the epithelium in the intestine and to a permanent intolerance of dietary prolamins. The autoimmune response results from the resistance to digestion of proline/glutamine rich peptides (epitopes) in the prolamins by gastric, pancreatic and brushborder membrane proteases. The only effective therapy is strict dietary abstinence from these food grains. It is the purpose of this project to eliminate from wheat grains the 78 prolamins containing the majority of epitopes causing celiac disease. They are unnecessary for baking. The promoters of the genes encoding these proteins are silenced by methylation in all vegetative parts of the wheat plant but are activated by de-methylation which is performed by 3 wheat DEMETER enzymes at the beginning of grain development. This enables the grain to synthesize the immunogenic gluten proteins. We employ methods to silence the synthesis in the grain of the 3 DEMETER enzymes encoded in the three wheat genomes: DNA targeted mutations of the active site of the enzymes and genetic transformation with artificial micro-RNAs and hairpin constructs to prevent the transcription of the genes.

Research Publications


Wen, S., W.Nuan, P. Jinsong, G. Langen, A.T.R. Brew-Appiah, J. H. Mejias, C. Osorio, M. Yang, R. Gemini, C.P. Moehs, R.S. Zemetra, K.-H. Kogel, B.Liu, X. Wang, D. von Wettstein, S. Rustgi (2012) Structural genes of wheat and barley 5-methylcytosine DNA glycosylases and their potential applications for human health. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U S A. 109, 20543--20548.

Mueller AH, C.Dockter, S.P. Gough, U. Lundqvist, D. von Wettstein, M. Hansson (2012) Characterization of mutations in barley fch2 encoding chlorophyllide a oxygenase. Plant Cell Physiol. 53(7):1232-46. doi: 10.1093/pcp/pcs062.

Ou, X, Y. Zhang, C. Xu,  X. Lin, Q. Zang, T.Zhuang, L. Jiang, D. von Wettstein,  B. Liu (2012) Transgenerational Inheritance of Modified DNA Methylation Patterns and Enhanced Tolerance Induced by Heavy Metal Stress in Rice (Oryza sativa L.). PLoS ONE 7(9): e41143. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041143.

Khatabi, B., A. Molitor, C. Lindermayr, S. Pfiffi, J. Durner, D. von Wettstein, K.-H. Kogel, P. Schäfer (2012) Ethylene supports colonization of plant roots by the mutualistic fungus Piriformospora indica. PLoS ONE 7: 4 e35502  

Osorio, C., N.Wen, R.Gemini, R.Zemetra, D.von Wettstein, S.Rustgi (2012) Targeted modification of wheat grain protein to reduce the content of celiac causing epitopes. Funct. Integr. Genomics.12, 417-438.

Nirmala, J., T. Drader, P.K.Lawrence, C. Yin, S.Hulbert, C.M. Steber, B.J. Steffenson , L. J.  Szabo, D.von Wettstein, and A. Kleinhofs (2011) Concerted action of two avirulent spore effectors activates reaction to Puccinia graminis 1 (RPG1)-mediated cereal stem rust resistance. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U S A. 108 (35), 14676-14681.

Kou H.P., Y. Li,  X.X. Song, X.F. Ou, SC. Xing, J.Ma, D.von Wettstein and B.Liu (2011) Heritable alteration in DNA methylation induced by nitrogen-deficiency stress accompanies enhanced tolerance by progenies to the stress in rice (Oryza sativa L.). J. Plant Physiol. 168 (14), 1685-93. PMID: 21665325.

Zhang M., C. Xu, D. von Wettstein and B.Liu (2011) Tissue-Specific Differences in Cytosine Methylation and their Association with Differential Gene Expression in Sorghum bicolor. Plant Physiol. 156, 1955-1966.  PMID: 21632971.

Lee H., S. Rustgi, N.Kumar, I. Burke, J.P. Yenish, K.S. Gill, D.von Wettstein, and S.E. Ullrich (2011).Single nucleotide mutation in the barley acetohydroxy acid synthase (AHAS) gene confers resistance to imidazolinone herbicides. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U S A. 108 (21), 8909-13. PMID: 21551103.

Samol, I., F. Buhr, et al. (2011). "Implication of the oep16-1 mutation in a flu-independent, singlet oxygen-regulated cell death pathway in Arabidopsis thaliana." Plant & Cell Physiology 52(1): 84-95.

Samol, I., C. Rossig, et al. (2011). "The outer chloroplast envelope protein OEP16-1 for plastid import of NADPH:protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase A in Arabidopsis thaliana." Plant & Cell Physiology 52(1): 96-111.

Kogel, K. H., L. M. Voll, et al. (2010). "Transcriptome and metabolome profiling of field-grown transgenic barley lack induced differences but show cultivar-specific variances." Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107  (14): 6198-6203.

Washington State University