Persistence of the mitochondrial lineage responsible for the Irish potato famine in extant new world Phytophthora infestans

Michael D. Martin*, Simon Y. W. Ho, Nathan Wales, Jean B. Ristaino, M. Thomas P. Gilbert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The plant pathogen Phytophthora infestans emerged in Europe in 1845, triggering the Irish potato famine and massive European potato crop losses that continued until effective fungicides were widely employed in the 20th century. Today the pathogen is ubiquitous, with more aggressive and virulent strains surfacing in recent decades. Recently, complete P. infestans mitogenome sequences from 19th-century herbarium specimens were shown to belong to a unique lineage (HERB-1) predicted to be rare or extinct in modern times. We report 44 additional P. infestans mitogenomes: four from 19th-century Europe, three from 1950s UK, and 37 from modern populations across the New World. We use phylogenetic analyses to identify the HERB-1 lineage in modern populations from both Mexico and South America, and to demonstrate distinct mitochondrial haplotypes were present in 19th-century Europe, with this lineage initially diversifying 75 years before the first reports of potato late blight.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1414-1420
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2014


  • ancient DNA
  • evolutionary biology
  • mitogenomics
  • molecular evolution
  • pathogens
  • potato

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