Auto-aggregation in zoospores of Phytophthora infestans: the cooperative roles of bioconvection and chemotaxis

Journal of the Royal Society, Interface
Andrew I M SavoryFordyce A Davidson


Phytophthora infestans is a highly destructive plant pathogen. It was the cause of the infamous Irish potato famine in the nineteenth century and remains to this day a significant global problem with associated costs estimated at $3 billion annually. Key to the success of this pathogen is the dispersal of free-swimming cells called zoospores. A poorly understood aspect of zoospore behaviour is auto-aggregation--the spontaneous formation of large-scale patterns in cell density. Current competing hypotheses suggest that these patterns are formed by one of two distinct mechanisms: chemotaxis and bioconvection. In this paper, we present mathematical and experimental results that together provide strong evidence that auto-aggregation can only result from a combination of these mechanisms, each having a distinct, time-separated role. A better understanding of the underlying infection mechanisms of P. infestans and potentially other Phytophthora species will in the longer term lead to advances in preventative treatment and thus potentially significant savings in socio-economic costs.


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