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

Andrew I. M. Savory, Laura J. Grenville-Briggs, Stephan Wawra, Pieter van West, Fordyce A. Davidson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20140017
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number94
Early online date5 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding statement
A.I.M.S. was supported by a Scottish Life Science Alliance Studentship. Our work was supported by the BBSRC and NERC (L.G.B., S.W., P.v.W.) and the University of Aberdeen (P.v.W.).


  • oomycetes
  • zoospores
  • chemotaxis
  • bioconvection
  • gyrotaxis
  • megasperma Var Sojae
  • gyrotactic microorganisms
  • phytopathogenic fungi
  • aggregation
  • palmivora
  • plant
  • pathogens
  • responses
  • potato
  • roots


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