Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Discover Plant Defense Against Potato Late Blight

April 1, 2015

Scientists from Wageningen University (The Netherlands) and The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich (United Kingdom) identified a gene that enhances resistance against potato late blight from a South American wild relative of cultivated potatoes. Potato blight, caused by Phytophthora infestans, triggered the Irish famine, and remains a major threat to potato crops worldwide.

The newly-discovered gene, ELR (Elicitin Resistance), targets elicitin, a conserved protein with an important biological function, making it less likely that the pathogen will evolve to evade resistance. It was found in a South American wild potato called Solanum microdontum, a native of Bolivia and Argentina. ELR works in association with a key gene in the immune system, BAK1/SERK1, according to the researchers, led by Vivianne Vleeshouwers of Wageningen University in The Netherlands. The research team inserted the gene into the cultivated potato called Desiree, and found it was more resistant to several strains of blight.

For more information, read the news release at the Wageningen University website.