Potato blight’s gene weaponry revealed

The genome of the potato blight pathogen has been sequenced. Photo credit: Nigel Cattlin / Holt Studios International / Science Photo LibraryThe blight that caused the infamous Irish potato famine of the 1840s has yielded its genetic secrets. An international team has sequenced the DNA of the microorganism that was to blame.

Phytophthora infestans, the water mould that causes late blight in potatoes, consumes and rots the leaves and tubers of the plant. The mould still afflicts potatoes, tomatoes and related plants, and costs farmers around the world an estimated $6.7 billion a year.

Now Chad Nusbaum, co-director of the Broad Institute’s genome sequencing and analysis programme in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and co-workers from numerous labs in the United States and Europe have sequenced the pest, using techniques honed on other organisms, plus a few tweaks.

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