Genetics, genomics and breeding of late blight and early blight resistance in tomato

Majid R. Foolad, Heather L. Merk, Hamid Ashrafi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Late blight (LB), caused by the oomycete Phytophthora infestans, and early blight (EB), caused by the fungi Alternaria solani and A. tomatophila, are two common and destructive foliar diseases of the cultivated tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and potato (Solanum tuberosum) in the United States and elsewhere in the world. While LB can infect and devastate tomato plants at any developmental stages, EB infection is usually associated with plant physiological maturity and fruit load where older senescing plants exhibit greater susceptibility and a heavy fruit set enhances the disease. At present, cultural practices and heavy use of fungicides are the most common measures for controlling LB and EB. Genetic resources for resistance have been identified for both diseases, largely within the tomato wild species, in particular the red-fruited species S. pimpinellifolium and the green-fruited species S. habrochaites. A few race-specific major resistance genes (e.g., Ph-1, Ph-2 and Ph-3) and several race-nonspecific resistance QTLs have been reported for LB. Ph-3 is a strong resistance gene and has been incorporated into many breeding lines of fresh market and processing tomato. However, new P. infestans isolates have been identified which overcome Ph-3 resistance. Recently, a new resistance gene (Ph-5) has been identified, which confers resistance to several pathogen isolates including those overcoming the previous resistance genes. Advanced breeding lines including Ph-5 alone and in combinations with Ph-2 and Ph-3 are being developed. Genetic controls of EB resistance have been studied and advanced breeding lines and cultivars with improved resistance have been developed through traditional breeding. Additionally, QTLs for EB resistance have been identified, which can be utilized for marker-assisted resistance breeding. Currently, new inbred lines and cultivars of tomato with good levels of EB resistance and competitive yield performance are being developed at the Pennsylvania State University. This review will focus on the current knowledge of both LB and EB with respect to the causal pathogens, host resistances, and genetics and breeding progresses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-107
Number of pages33
JournalCritical Reviews in Plant Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science


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