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Sep 9, 2009

USDA Gene Sequences Pathogen That Caused the 19th Century Irish Potato FamineGenome of Potato Blight Pathogen Sequenced

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that scientists in its Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have sequenced the genome of the pathogen that caused the 19th century Irish potato.  Their discovery is published on 9 September in Nature

The pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine is Phytophthora infetans, a fungus that is commonly called "blight."  Most recently, it caused destruction of both potato and tomato crops in the eastern United States.  on the USDA The complete genome of the pathogen that caused the infamous Irish potato famine and the recent loss of potato and tomato crops in the eastern United States has been sequenced by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and cooperators.

Phytophthora infestans destroys crops were quickly, spreading within infected fields and mutating quickly so that fungicides have not been effective in controlling destruction of harvests. 

Genome research by ARS plant pathologists made two important discoveries.  First, they found several groups of enzymes located close to each other on the genome of P. infestans that are secreted by the pathogen to attack the surface of a plant, allowing it to break through and begin feeding on the plant's nutrients.  The scientists believe two of these enzyme groups may be used by the pathogen at the initial stage of infection.  Second, they were able to identify a unique pattern of gene segments called introns in the pathogen's genome that give the pathogen the ability to produce different proteins from the same gene and attack different compounds within the plant cell wall.

Photo Credit: Potato infected with Phytophthora infestans, USDA, Agricultural Research Services.

For more see:

Marris, Emma.  "The genome of the potato blight pathogen has been sequenced." Nature, 9 September 2009.
Yao, Stephanie.  "ARS Scientists Help Sequence Genome of Potato Late Blight Pathogen." USDA, Agricultural Research Services, News and Events, 9 Sept. 2009.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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