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Gene expression polymorphism underpins evasion of host immunity in an asexual lineage of the Irish potato famine pathogen

Outbreaks caused by asexual lineages of fungal and oomycete pathogens are a continuing threat to crops, wild animals and natural ecosystems (Fisher MC, Henk DA, Briggs CJ, Brownstein JS, Madoff LC, McCraw SL, Gurr SJ, Nature 484:186–194, 2012; Kupferschmidt K, Science 337:636–638, 2012). However, the mechanisms underlying genome evolution and phenotypic plasticity in asexual eukaryotic microbes remain poorly understood (Seidl MF, Thomma BP, BioEssays 36:335–345, 2014). Ever since the 19th century Irish famine, the oomycete Phytophthora infestans has caused recurrent outbreaks on potato and tomato crops that have been primarily caused by the successive rise and migration of pandemic asexual lineages (Goodwin SB, Cohen BA, Fry WE, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 91:11591–11595, 1994; Yoshida K, Burbano HA, Krause J, Thines M, Weigel D, Kamoun S, PLoS Pathog 10:e1004028, 2014; Yoshida K, Schuenemann VJ, Cano LM, Pais M, Mishra B, Sharma R, Lanz C, Martin FN, Kamoun S, Krause J, et al. eLife 2:e00731, 2013; Cooke DEL, Cano LM, Raffaele S, Bain RA, Cooke LR, Etherington GJ, Deahl KL, Farrer RA, Gilroy EM, Goss EM, et al. PLoS Pathog 8:e1002940, 2012). However, the dynamics of genome evolution within these clonal lineages have not been determined. The objective of this study was to use a comparative genomics and transcriptomics approach to determine the molecular mechanisms that underpin phenotypic variation within a clonal lineage of P. infestans.