Changing ploidy as a strategy: The Irish potato famine pathogen shifts ploidy in relation to its sexuality

Ying Li, He Shen, Qian Zhou, Kun Qian, Theo van der Lee, Sanwen Huang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


The oomycete Phytophthora infestans was the causal agent of the Irish Great Famine and is a recurring threat to global food security. The pathogen can reproduce both sexually and asexually, with high potential to adapt to various environments and great risk to break disease resistance genes in potato. As are other oomycetes, P. infestans is regarded to be diploid during the vegetative phase of its life cycle, although some studies reported trisomy and polyploidy. Using microsatellite fingerprinting, genome-wide assessment of single nucleotide polymorphisms, nuclear DNA quantification, and microscopic counting of chromosome numbers, we assessed the ploidy level of a comprehensive selection of isolates. All progenies from sexual populations of P. infestans in nature were found to be diploid, in contrast nearly all dominant asexual lineages, including the most important pandemic clonal lineages US-1 and 13-A2 were triploid. Such triploids possess significantly more allelic variation than diploids. We observed that triploid genotype can change to a diploid genome constitution when exposed to artificial stress conditions. This study reveals that fluctuations in the ploidy level may be a key factor in the adaptation process of this notorious plant destroyer and imposes an extra challenge to control this disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-52
JournalMolecular Plant-Microbe Interactions
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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