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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Davis, California » Crops Pathology and Genetics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #298920

Title: Epigenetic mechanisms and the evolution of virulence

item Kasuga, Takao
item GIJZEN, MARK - Agri Food - Canada

Submitted to: Trends in Microbiology
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/15/2013
Publication Date: 10/15/2013
Publication URL:
Citation: Kasuga, T., Gijzen, M. 2013. Epigenetic mechanisms and the evolution of virulence. Trends in Microbiology. 21:575-582.

Interpretive Summary: Oomycetes include one of the most devastating plant pathogens. The biology and pathogenicity of oomycetes does not always follow the rules of classical theory of evolution or genetics. In this review we first introduce the concept of epigenetics, which is the study of changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype, caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. We then discuss how oomycetes exploit epigenetic mechanisms to evade the host defense system and adapt rapidly to new environments.

Technical Abstract: The interaction between pathogenic organisms and their hosts presents numerous opportunities to observe and test basic biological concepts such as adaptation, fitness, selection, and coevolution. The host-pathogen interaction is an inherently unstable relationship that makes hard evolutionary demands on both organisms. Pathogen factors that contribute to successful growth on hosts can become self-defeating if susceptible hosts are wiped out, or if host immune systems develop new recognition capabilities. In the realm of plant pathogens, a practical interest to control endemic or invasive species that destroy crops or natural environments has driven research on these organisms and led to new insights that have wider biological implications. In this review, we will consider how epigenetic processes can be recruited by pathogenic organisms to acquire virulence traits and adapt to new hosts, using various examples but primarily focusing on species from the plant pathogenic genus Phytophthora.