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Leighton Pritchard

Staff picture: Leighton Pritchard
Information and Computational Sciences
Information and Computational Sciences
+44 (0) 1382 568827

The James Hutton Institute
Dundee DD2 5DA
Scotland UK



Current research interests

  • Computational biology and bioinformatics.
  • Oomycete and bacterial plant pathogens.
  • Systems biology of plant-pathogen interactions.
  • Comparative genomics of plant pathogens.

Research interests

My research centres on plant-pathogen interactions: I aim to understand what it is about microbial plant pathogens that enables them to infect plants, and what it is is about plants that allows microbes to cause disease on them. As a computational biologist, my work involves computational and mathematical analysis of biological data, such as sequence data, transcription profiles, and networks of metabolic and regulatory processes.

Systems biology

  • Plant cells contain complex systems of signalling, regulatory and metabolic networks (Pritchard and Birch, 2011) that are perturbed by invading microbes which introduce effector proteins and other molecular species into the host. Invaded plants detect molecular components of the invading pathogen and changes to their cellular networks, often responding with effective resistance. I am interested in the implications of the dynamics and structure of cellular networks for the development of plant disease caused by microbial pathogens.

Genomics and comparative genomics of plant pathogens

Oomycete and bacterial plant pathogens

  • Much of my work is in support of the practical goal of reducing the impact of severe and financially significant crop diseases caused by oomycete and bacterial plant pathogens, such as Phytophthora infestans and Dickeya species. In order to understand the relationship between our models and the outcome of infection, we need to appreciate both the biological and the mathematical details of the problem. Oomycete effector proteins (Birch et al. 2009, Birch et al. 2006, Armstrong et al. 2005), and interactions with plant defences (Gilroy et al. 2007). Microarray design and analysis of gene expression profiles in bacterial plant pathogens (McNally et al. 2012Antunez-Lamas et al. 2009, Ravirala et al. 2007). Persistence of human pathogenic bacteria on plants (Holden et al. 2008).

Computational Biology and Bioinformatics

  • Bioinformatics and mathematics are the tools that I use to study and make sense of biological sequences and other data. I am interested in visualisation tools for large datasets, and a collaboration in this area with Ian Toth, Michel Perombelon, and Prof. Elaine Shemilt of the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design resulted in exhibitions in Dundee and Singapore. I have also contributed code to open source bioinformatics projects, including Biopython. Visualisation of comparative genomic data (Pritchard et al. 2006). Galaxy (Cock et al. 2013). Tablet (Milne et al. 2013). Directed evolution and error-prone PCR (Pritchard et al. 2005). Protein sequence-structure-function analysis, including covariation analysis (Pritchard et al. 2003, Pritchard et al. 2001, Pritchard and Dufton 2000, Pritchard and Dufton, 1999)


  • Plant pathogen research  is a multidisciplinary effort, and I collaborate with a number of researchers in a range of fields, in the UK and internationally.


  • Avrova, A.O.; Birch, P.R.J.; Hein, I.; Jones, J.T.; Pritchard, L. (2010) Functional analysis of pathogen effectors: how to go from genomics to durable resistance., Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 2009, 39-41.
  • Whisson, S.C.; Boevink, P.; Pritchard, L.; Avrova, A.O.; Morales, J.; Birch, P.R.J. (2006) Effector protein translocation in the Phytophthora infestans - potato infection., Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 2006, pp24-25.
  • Toth, I.K.; Pritchard, L.; Holeva, M.C.; Hyman, L.J.; Bell, K.S.; Whisson, S.C.; Avrova, A.O.; Birch, P.R.J. (2004) New discoveries with Erwinia genomics., Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 2002/2003, p101.

Scientific posters/conferences

File Comparative and functional genomics identifies major differences between genomic islands in soft rotting enterobacterial plant pathogens 414.25 KB
File Comparative Genomic Analysis of Erwinia carotovora subsp atroseptica: Evidence For Extensive Horizontal Gene Transfer with Plant Associated Bacteria 613.23 KB
File Identification Of Novel Erwinia Genes Involved In Disease 133.37 KB
File Post-Genomic Analysis of Erwinia Carotovora Virulence Responses in In Vitro and In Planta Environments 119.48 KB
File Expression profiles of RXLR motif-containing sequences during Phytophthora infestans-potato interactions 1.4 MB
File A step closer to blackleg control: Genomics opens our eyes to the true nature of Erwinia and its interaction with plants 212.62 KB
File Genomics approaches uncover an alternative life-style of the plant pathogen Pectobacterium atrosepticum 210.23 KB
File A whole genome transcriptomics approach to determine the quorum sensing regulon of Pectobacterium atrosepticum during infection 176.37 KB
File Prediction of transcription factor binding sites in bacterial genomes: case study with Pectobacterium atrosepticum 405.75 KB
File Development of a Computational Pipeline For Automated Prediction of Bacterial Transcription Factor Binding Sites 1.39 MB
File Functional characterization of the RxLR-EER translocation signal for delivery of oomycete effector proteins into host plant cells 162.54 KB
File Methods to investigate interactions between human pathogenic enterobacteria and plant hosts 235.09 KB
File Bioinformatic Analysis of Palindromes in Bacterial Genome Sequences 412.45 KB
File Exploiting the Phytophthora infestans genome to determine targets for sustainable potato protection 597.58 KB

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.