Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Secrets of potato blight evolution could help farmers fight back

Date:
January 31, 2014
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
Scientists have discovered vital clues as to how the pathogen responsible for the Irish potato famine adapted to spread between different plant species by looking in unprecedented detail at how Phytophthora infestans, a pathogen that continues to blight potatoes and tomatoes today, evolved to target other plants. The findings will enable scientists to develop more resistant crops in future.

Mirabilis jalapa, the 'four o'clock flower' that Phytophthora mirabilis has adapted to attack.
Credit: University of Oxford

Researchers at Oxford University and The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, looked in unprecedented detail at how Phytophthora infestans, a pathogen that continues to blight potatoes and tomatoes today, evolved to target other plants.

Related Articles


The study, published today in the journal Science, is the first to show how pathogens switch from targeting one species to another through changes at the molecular level. Researchers examined the biochemical differences between Phytophthora infestans and sister species Phytophthora mirabilis, a pathogen that split from P. infestans around 1300 years ago to target the Mirabilis jalapa plant, commonly known as the four o'clock flower. They found that each pathogen species secretes specialised substances to shut down the defences of their target hosts.

'Plants have these enzymes called proteases that play a key role in their defence systems,' said Dr Renier van der Hoorn, co-author of the study from Oxford University's Department of Plant Sciences. 'When a plant becomes infected, proteases help plants to attack the invading pathogens and trigger immune responses. P. infestans secretes substances called effectors that disable proteases in potatoes and tomatoes. These are highly specialised to block specific proteases in the host plant, fitting like a key into a lock.'

The effectors secreted by P. infestans are less effective against proteases in other plants such as the four o'clock, as they do not fit well into the 'locks'. The researchers found that P. mirabilis evolved effectors that disable the defences of the four o'clock plant but are no longer effective against potatoes or tomatoes.

'For the first time, we have found a direct molecular mechanism underpinning the change in host specialisation,' said Dr van der Hoorn. 'We looked at specialisation in the blight pathogens' secret weapon, a key family of effectors called 'EPIC' that can pass through plants' defences undetected to disable the proteases. The EPIC effectors secreted by P. infestans have evolved to fit the structure of potato proteases just as P. mirabilis has evolved effectors that fit four o'clock proteases.

'If we could breed plants with proteases that can detect these stealthy EPIC effectors, we could prevent them from 'sneaking in' and thus make more resistant plants. Within the next decade, we plan to exploit the specialised nature of these effectors to develop proteases that are resistant to their action or can even trap them and destroy the pathogen. Potato and tomato plants with such proteases would be resistant to the blight pathogens, and combined with other resistant traits could provide another 'wall' of defence against the pathogens.'


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oxford. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Dong, R. Stam, L. M. Cano, J. Song, J. Sklenar, K. Yoshida, T. O. Bozkurt, R. Oliva, Z. Liu, M. Tian, J. Win, M. J. Banfield, A. M. E. Jones, R. A. L. van der Hoorn, S. Kamoun. Effector Specialization in a Lineage of the Irish Potato Famine Pathogen. Science, 2014; 343 (6170): 552 DOI: 10.1126/science.1246300

Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Secrets of potato blight evolution could help farmers fight back." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140131083529.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2014, January 31). Secrets of potato blight evolution could help farmers fight back. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140131083529.htm
University of Oxford. "Secrets of potato blight evolution could help farmers fight back." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140131083529.htm (accessed January 31, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nanoscale Sensor Could Help Wine Producers and Clinical Scientists

Nanoscale Sensor Could Help Wine Producers and Clinical Scientists

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 30, 2015) A nanosensor that mimics the oral effects and sensations of drinking wine has been developed by Danish and Portuguese researchers. Jim Drury saw it in operation. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dog-Loving Astronaut Wins Best Photo of 2015

Dog-Loving Astronaut Wins Best Photo of 2015

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) Retired astronaut and television host, Leland Melvin, snuck his dogs into the NASA studio so they could be in his official photo. As Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) shows us, the secret is out. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Wants to Analyze DNA from 1 Million People

U.S. Wants to Analyze DNA from 1 Million People

Reuters - US Online Video (Jan. 30, 2015) The U.S. has proposed analyzing genetic information from more than 1 million American volunteers to learn how genetic variants affect health and disease. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rarest Cat on Planet Caught Attacking Monkeys on Camera

Rarest Cat on Planet Caught Attacking Monkeys on Camera

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) An African Golden Cat, the rarest large cat on the planet was recently caught on camera by scientists trying to study monkeys. The cat comes out of nowhere to attack those monkeys. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) has the rest. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins