Using information on the fungus's RNA – the sister molecule of DNA which helps regulate the behaviour of genes – researchers hope to discover how the fungus causes disease, and how it can be stopped. Scientists from the Sainsbury Laboratory and the John Innes Centre examined a sample of pith from a twig of an infected Ash tree in Ashwellthorpe wood in Norfolk, the first natural environment where the fungus was found in the UK. From the sample they extracted RNA and sequenced it to help them identify which genes are most influential in allowing the fungus to spread between trees so quickly. In normal circumstances, scientists would analyse the sample thoroughly and have their findings peer-reviewed before publishing them in a journal. But because of the urgency of the situation, the researchers took the unusual step of publishing their data online and asking experts from around the world to help them produce accurate results more quickly through "crowdsourcing".
Via Kamoun Lab @ TSL, Mary Williams