Protecting the rice bowl: Chromosomal mapping of the rice blast fungus

Rice, not bread, is the staff of life for much of the world's population, and with the health and productivity of the rice crop goes many a community's food supply. So it is little wonder researchers are teaming up against the rice blast fungus, Magnaporthe grisea, a widespread pathogen capable of devastating rice yields and causing regional food shortages. In the August issue of Genome Research, Heng Zhu, Ralph Dean and colleagues (Clemson University) report constructing the first complete physical map of an M. grisea chromosome - an important step towards defeating the depredations of this fungus and the first such map of any rice pathogen chromosome.

To create the map, Zhu and colleagues combined two commonly used techniques, hybridization and fingerprinting, to precisely order hundreds of clones spanning M. grisea chromosome 7. The striking success of their approach paves the way for mapping, and eventually sequencing, the entire M. grisea genome. Furthermore, by facilitating the cloning of new genes, the map immediately boosts efforts to determine how M. grisea infects host rice plants and particularly how the fungus overcomes host defense mechanisms. This knowledge is essential not only for combating rice blast but for understanding host-pathogen interactions in general.


Contact: Laurie Goodman
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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