Scientists at the Sainsbury Laboratory on the Norwich Research Park, England, are investigating the most economically damaging organisms that affect crops globally. These are the parasitic water fungus, the causative agent of powdery mildew; and water molds, which causes late blight in potatoes, tomatoes and downy mildew in cruciferous vegetables and other crops.
The researchers headed by Professor Sophien Kamoun compared the genome of the potato blight pathogen to four sister species that infect diverse kinds of plants including ornamentals. Analysis revealed that some parts of the genome exhibit low rate of evolution and this is similar between the sister species. On the other hand, some sections are more dynamic and allow pathogen to quickly jump hosts to infect and adapt to new plant species.
Genomes of the other parasites under study were also sequenced in collaboration with other research institutions. The genomes were likewise compared with other closely related species. Analysis showed that parasites have discarded several genes and have focused on genes that help them sneakily take control of host cells. The genome sequences revealed many effector proteins, the molecules that invade plant cells to suppress plant immunity.
Read the press release at http://www.tsl.ac.uk/genehunters.html