New plant breeding strategy could counter blight pathogen that wreaked havoc during Irish potato famine

PotatoBlight
Late blight is major threat to potato plants. Credit: Fry, Molecular Plant Pathology (2008)

Scientists …. have shed further light into the mechanisms through which the potato blight pathogen interacts with plant cells to promote disease.

Late blight played a major role in the historical Irish potato famine, and is still a huge problem for farmers today, causing massive crop losses and proving difficult to manage by chemical control and traditional breeding methods.

The potato blight pathogen delivers proteins called effectors into plant cells to manipulate host processes and promote disease. Knowledge of where they localize inside host cells is important in understanding their functions.

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“Forty-five effectors enhanced the pathogen’s ability to colonise leaves when expressed inside the plant cells, revealing that they can indeed assist infection, [said Dr Petra Boevink, lead author of the research]. “Given that the pathogen produces many effectors this indicates that these effectors work in combination to suppress the many different strategies the plants use to defend themselves.”

Related article:  Naturally mutating corn pollen genes may lead the way to higher-yielding crops

This new research is another milestone in the quest to provide potato breeders with the knowledge needed to develop disease-resistant varieties suited to the requirements of consumers and industry.

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Read full, original article: Researchers shine a light into the mechanisms of potato late blight infection

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