Virginia Bioinformatics Institute researcher advances fight against sudden oak death disease

Blacksburg, Va., June 10, 2004 Virginia Bioinformatics Researcher Brett Tyler and his colleagues are one step closer to finding a cure for a disease affecting California oak trees that is now showing up in nurseries in a dozen states, including Virginia, and threatening woody ornamentals and East Coast forests.

Tyler and his colleagues have successfully mapped the genome of the devastating pathogens Phytophtora sojae and Phytophtora ramorum. P. ramorum, also known as sudden oak death, is a serious fungal pathogen that has attacked and killed tens of thousands of California and Oregon oak trees. P. sojae, the sister pathogen to P. ramorum, causes serious damage to soybean crops and cost growers $1 billion worldwide last year.

The sequences of P. sojae will act as a "Rosetta Stone" to help researchers better understand P. ramorum's genome makeup and uncover valuable information to help cure and prevent sudden oak death disease. In addition, the sequencing of the P. ramorum genome represents the fastest tracking time between the identification of a complex pathogen (in 2000) and the completion of its genome (in 2004).

Tyler, along with representatives from the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI at www.jgi.doe.gov), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), USDA Forest Service, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and others will present the scientific findings to the media on June 10, 2004 at the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, California.

Sudden oak death disease has the potential to affect forests in the Appalachian highlands in Virginia and other areas on the East Coast. The disease kills the oak tree, but usually the carrier shrubs survive. Sudden oak death has affected California redwood seedlings and sprouts, but not the trunks. However, it poses a large threat to Virginia oak trees and other Eastern Seaboard plant species that have proven highly susceptible to the pathogen in greenhouse tests. Tyler i

Contact: Blanche O'Neill
Virginia Tech

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