Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fun fact: Strain of pathogen responsible for Irish potato famine identified

An oospore of Phytophthora infestans - the causal
agent of potato late blight. Photo by Fk.
Using dried herbarium samples a team of scientists have identified HERB-1, a unique strain of Phytophthora infestans (more commonly: potato blight pathogen) which they believe is responsible for the havoc wreaked by the Irish potato famine. The international team made this conclusion based on the results of genomic sequencing experiments performed on potato leaf samples that came from Ireland, the UK, Europe and North America which had been preserved at the herbaria of the Botanical State Collection in Munich and the Kew Gardens in London. The DNA preservation was surprisingly excellent and the team could evaluate the genome of potato blight pathogen and its potato host in just a few weeks.

The paper entitled: 'The rise and fall of the Phytophthora infestans lineage that triggered the Irish potato famine' is available on eLIFE.

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