Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Secrets of potato blight evolution could help farmers fight back

31.01.2014
Scientists have discovered vital clues as to how the pathogen responsible for the Irish potato famine adapted to spread between different plant species

Scientists have discovered vital clues as to how the pathogen responsible for the Irish potato famine adapted to spread between different plant species.


Mirabilis jalapa (the four o'clock flower). This plant is the host of Phytophthora mirabilis, the sister species of the Irish potato famine pathogen Phytophthora infestans.

Credit: Sophien Kamoun, The Sainsbury Laboratory (Norwich, UK)

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

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 specialized 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 specialized 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 specialized 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.'

The study was funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Ohio State University and the US Department of Agriculture.

News & Information Office | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ox.ac.uk

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Tropical deforestation releases large amounts of soil carbon
28.07.2015 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

nachricht Drivers of temporal changes in temperate forest plant diversity
27.07.2015 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum Matter Stuck in Unrest

Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.

What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...

Im Focus: On the crest of the wave: Electronics on a time scale shorter than a cycle of light

Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.

The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...

Im Focus: Superfast fluorescence sets new speed record

Plasmonic device has speed and efficiency to serve optical computers

Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.

Im Focus: Unlocking the rice immune system

Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight

A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...

Im Focus: Smarter window materials can control light and energy

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.

By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Euro Bio-inspired - International Conference and Exhibition on Bio-inspired Materials

23.07.2015 | Event News

Clash of Realities – International Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

10.07.2015 | Event News

World Conference on Regenerative Medicine in Leipzig: Last chance to submit abstracts until 2 July

25.06.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tool making and additive technology exhibition: Fraunhofer IPT at Formnext

31.07.2015 | Trade Fair News

First Siemens-built Thameslink train arrives in London

31.07.2015 | Transportation and Logistics

California 'rain debt' equal to average full year of precipitation

31.07.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>