WALNUT CREEK, CA--By comparing the complete genome sequences of two plant-killing pathogens and related organisms, researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), in collaboration with the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) and others, have uncovered crucial aspects of the disease-causing mechanisms of "sudden oak death" (SOD) and soybean root rot disease. The research, the result of a four-year, $4 million multi-agency project supported by DOE, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF), appears in the Sept. 1, 2006, edition of Science (vol. 313, No. 5791).
"This project best exemplifies how the capabilities that were established at the DOE JGI for sequencing the human genome are now proving to be essential for addressing important environmental challenges," said Eddy Rubin, DOE JGI Director. "We are now capable of rapidly responding to the urgent needs of the nation's largest industry, agriculture, where genome sequence information can be brought to bear on characterizing such economically important microorganisms as those that cause sudden oak death and soybean root rot. For these pathogens, the genome sequence is the wiring diagram of the cellular processes that can be targeted for novel detection systems and for safe and effective means of control."
Phytophthora (pronounced "Fy-TOFF-thor-uh") species, the target pathogens, attack a wide variety of plants, including agricultural crops as well as trees and shrubs of native ecosystems and backyard gardens alike. Phytophthora ramorum ("ruh-MORE-um") causes Sudden Oak Death, and Phytophthora sojae ("SEW-jay") attacks primarily soybeans.
"Among the discoveries embedded in the DNA of Phytophthora ramorum is the presence of more than 13,000 diagnostically different single-letter changes that vary among strains of the disease," said Jeffrey Boore, senior author of the Science study and DOE JGI Evolutionary Genom
Contact: David Gilbert
DOE/Joint Genome Institute