The plant pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s lives on today with a different genetic blueprint and an even larger arsenal of weaponry to harm and kill plants.
In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, North Carolina State University plant pathologist Jean Ristaino and colleagues Mike Martin and Tom Gilbert from the University of Copenhagen compared the genomes, or sets of all genes, of five 19th century strains of the Phytophthora infestans pathogen with modern strains of the pathogen, which still wreaks havoc on potatoes and tomatoes.
The researchers found that the genes in historical plant samples collected in Belgium in 1845 as well as other samples collected from varied European locales in the late 1870s and 1880s were quite different from modern-day P. infestans genes, including some genes in modern plants that make the pathogen more virulent than the historical strains.
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