Genome of the destructive oomycete Phytophthora cinnamomi provides insights into its pathogenicity and adaptive potential.
Background: Phytophthora cinnamomi is an oomycete pathogen of global relevance. It is considered as one of the most invasive species, which has caused irreversible damage to natural ecosystems and horticultural crops. There is currently a lack of a high-quality reference genome for this species despite several attempts that have been made towards sequencing its genome. The lack of a good quality genome sequence has been a setback for various genetic and genomic research to be done on this species. As a consequence, little is known regarding its genome characteristics and how these contribute to its pathogenicity and invasiveness. Results: In this work we generated a high-quality genome sequence and annotation for P. cinnamomi using a combination of Oxford Nanopore and Illumina sequencing technologies. The annotation was done using RNA-Seq data as supporting gene evidence. The final assembly consisted of 133 scaffolds, with an estimated genome size of 109.7 Mb, N50 of 1.18 Mb, and BUSCO completeness score of 97.5%. Genome partitioning analysis revealed that P. cinnamomi has a two-speed genome characteristic, similar to that of other oomycetes and fungal plant pathogens. In planta gene expression analysis revealed up-regulation of pathogenicity-related genes, suggesting their important roles during infection and host degradation. Conclusion: This study has provided a high-quality reference genome and annotation for P. cinnamomi. This is among the best assembled genomes for any Phytophthora species assembled to date and thus resulted in improved identification and characterization of pathogenicity-related genes, some of which were undetected in previous versions of genome assemblies. Phytophthora cinnamomi harbours a large number of effector genes which are located in the gene-poor regions of the genome. This unique genomic partitioning provides P. cinnamomi with a high level of adaptability and could contribute to its success as a highly invasive species. Finally, the genome sequence, its annotation and the pathogenicity effectors identified in this study will serve as an important resource that will enable future studies to better understand and mitigate the impact of this important pathogen.