Molecular Plant Pathology’s Top Ten

Keeping with last week’s plant pathology theme, I thought I’d highlight a paper that came out in the spring in case any plant pathologists missed it. This may also help people in other fields of plant science out there who might need to hold their own in a pathology-based conversation occasionally. In April 2012, Molecular Plant Pathology published ‘The top 10 fungal pathogens in molecular plant pathology,’ as voted for by 495 readers of the journal.

Quesadillas made with corn infected with Ustilago maydis, which is called huitacoche.

The pathogens chosen are:

  1. Magnaporthe oryzae, the cause of rice blast disease.
  2. Botrytis cinerea, also known as grey mold – probably the cause of the mold on the strawberries in the back of the fridge that you bought when they were offer.
  3. Puccinia spp., the cause of an unpleasant range of rust diseases that occur on wheat.
  4. Fusarium graminearum, a cereal pathogen commonly known variously as head blight, ear blight, or, delightfully, head scab. Infected grain can be poisonous.
  5. Fusarium oxysporum, a ubiquitous soil-borne pathogen that can infect many species, including important fruit species, and humans.
  6. Blumeria graminis, powdery mildew, which infects wheat and barley.
  7. Mycosphaerella graminicola is also called Septoria tritici and causes blotch disease in wheat.
  8. Colletotrichum spp. can infect a large range of crops, and latent infections can destroy stores of fruits post-harvest.
  9. Ustilago maydis, or corn smut, is actually cultured on corn cobs by farmers in Mexico, where the infected corn is called huitacoche and is a common recipe ingredient.
  10. Melampsora lini, or flax rust, the classic model plant pathogen.

The paper gives a ‘resume’ of each one, written by an expert in that particular species. Is your favourite pathogen missing? What other ‘Top 10’ would be interesting to put together?

Paper: DEAN, R., VAN KAN, J. A. L., PRETORIUS, Z. A., HAMMOND-KOSACK, K. E., DI PIETRO, A., SPANU, P. D., RUDD, J. J., DICKMAN, M., KAHMANN, R., ELLIS, J. and FOSTER, G. D. (2012), The Top 10 fungal pathogens in molecular plant pathology. Molecular Plant Pathology, 13: 414–430. doi: 10.1111/j.1364-3703.2011.00783.x

Teaching resources: This is an exercise easily recreated in a tutorial group or classroom. Groups of students could each make a pitch for their plant pathogen (or crop species, or organelle, etc …) and the whole group would vote for which one deserves the ‘top’ spot.

Image credit: Lesley Téllez, via her blog The Mija Chronicles

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