Press Release

TIGR Collaborates with Universities of California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Cornell on Potato Disease Project

October 10, 2000

ROCKVILLE, MD -- The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) is part of a consortium focused on developing tools to study potato functional genomics. The consortium, led by Dr. Barbara Baker at University of California Berkeley, includes Dr. Georgiana May at University of Minnesota, Drs. Jiming Jiang and John Helgeson at University of Wisconsin, Drs. William Fry and Steve Tanksley at Cornell University, and Drs. Catherine Ronning and C. Robin Buell at TIGR.

TIGR will generate 60,000 ESTs from various potato cDNA libraries. These sequences will be single pass sequences from cDNA clones. A total of 10,000 sequences will be generated from five core potato tissues (stolons, tubers, leaves, shoots, and roots). A total of 5,000 sequences will be generated from each of two subtracted libraries constructed from leaf tissue infected by compatible and incompatible strains of Phytophthora infestans.

Phytophthora infestans is one of two organisms responsible for the highest levels of economic damage on potato and tomato, therefore understanding potato gene expression in response to Phytophthora infection, particularly the resistance response, will provide major benefits to agricultural science. In addition, microarrays consisting of a non-redundant set of potato cDNAs will be constructed at TIGR. These arrays will be used to monitor gene expression patterns in potato plants infected with P. infestans. Data from these arrays will be made available via the web.

The Irish Potato Famine

Late blight of potato caused by P. infestans resulted in the Irish potato famine during the 1800's and today continues to be an increasing problem for potato and tomato growers worldwide. There are nearly 60 species of Phytophthora, all of which are destructive pathogens that cause rots of many plant roots, stems, leaves and fruits. Importantly, other crops that have experienced significant dollar losses to Phytophthora species include alfalfa, almonds, apples, avocado, citrus, cocoa, cucurbits, peppers, pineapple, raspberry, soybean, strawberry, tobacco and walnuts.

It is reported that in the United States alone, crop damage by Phytophthora species has cost billions of dollars, and worldwide it is many times this figure [Donald C. Erwin and Olaf K. Ribeiro (Eds.). "Phytophthora diseases worldwide." APS Press, St. Paul, Minn. 1996].

"Participating in this collaborative effort allows us to contribute to a better understanding of the structure and function of plant genes. We fully expect that the study of host-pathogen interactions will accelerate our understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in these processes and allow a more informed approach to the prevention and treatment of disease in important agricultural species, " said Claire M. Fraser, Ph.D., President of TIGR.

Funding of this project by The National Science Foundation (NSF) will help scientists progress in the areas of public health and the environment as it relates to the potential of genomics to enrich agriculture and food safety.

For more information regarding the Potato Functional Genomics Project, please visit our website at http://www.tigr.org/tdb/potato/.