New pathogen resource launched

10th Jan 2012

A new resource to help researchers find ways to combat agricultural pathogens, called PhytoPath, was launched on the 10th Jan. PhytoPath, which was developed with funding from BBSRC, integrates genome-scale data of important plant pathogen species with literature-curated information about the phenotypes of host infection. This resource could make it easier for researchers to understand the origins of crop diseases and devise new strategies to control them.

PhytoPath uses the Ensembl Genomes browser to provide access to complete genome assembly and gene models of agriculturally important fungal and oomycete plant pathogens. It links genes to experimentally verified functional information on disease progression in the host using data from PHI-base, a curated resource that describes interactions between pathogens and their hosts as well as the intervention targets of commercially used anti-infective chemistries.

PhytoPath helps researchers make the most of the vast quantities of data produced in sequencing experiments, for example genomes, gene expression and sequence variation, by integrating them with curated information about infectious phenotypes. PhytoPath also provides several analysis tools to help researchers compare predicted gene repertoires of pathogens with similar (or dissimilar) lifestyles.

Just as the 1000 Genomes Project is critical for understanding variation in human populations, studies of population-scale variation are increasingly critical to the molecular dissection of plant disease.

PhytoPath contains the genomes of many devastating pathogens, including Phytophthora infestans, which brought on the Irish potato famine of the mid-19th Century and has re-emerged as an important biotic threat to global food security. Also included are the genomes of several cereal fungal pathogens that regularly lower global grain production by between 15 and 30%: Magnaporthe oryzae (rice and wheat blast), Puccinia graminis and P. triticina (the rusts), Blumeria graminis (powdery mildew), the wheat leaf-infecting pathogen Septoria tricitici (Mycosphaerella graminicola) and Fusarium graminearum (Gibberella zeae), a fungus which produces mycotoxins that are harmful to human and animal health.

PhytoPath also provides enhanced searching of the PHI-base resource as well as the fungi and protists in Ensembl Genomes. To keep pace with the growing body of information in the scientific literature, a new community curation initiative will be launched in 2012.

PhytoPath is a collaboration between the European Molecular Biology Laboratory's European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and Rothamsted Research in the UK. PHI-base has been given National Capability status by BBSRC for its part in helping the UK deliver world-leading environmental research. For more information visit: www.phytopathdb.org.

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