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Stephen Whisson

Staff picture: Stephen Whisson
Cell and Molecular Sciences
Cell and Molecular Sciences
Molecular Potato Pathologist
+44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Dundee DD2 5DA
Scotland UK


Current research interests

  • A major focus of my research at The James Hutton Institute is the discovery and functional characterisation of P. infestans genes required for pathogenicity and avirulence on the host plant potato, through an integrated genomics approach. Genes found to be crucial for the successful infection of potato are clearly potential targets for future late blight, and broader oomycete, control strategies.
  • Active areas of research in the Phytophthora genomics lab include: effector/avirulence gene discovery and characterisation, screening for candidate pathogenicity factors using transient gene silencing (RNA interference), characterisation of RXLR-EER-mediated effector protein translocation into host plant cells, and cell biology of P. infestans/plant interactions using pathogen::fluorescent proteins fusions.

Past research

  • My PhD research characterised the genetics of avirulence in the soybean root rot pathogen Phytophthora sojae, the genome of which has now been sequenced.
  • I joined SCRI as a postdoc in 1999 on a project based around the creation of genomics capabilities for P. infestans at SCRI, including constructing a large insert bacterial chromosome library, physical mapping of selected genomic regions, and targeted gene discovery using cDNA-AFLP and suppression subtractive hybridisation.
  • In 2002 I was awarded the first SEERAD Senior Research Fellowship to work on an integrated genomics strategy for P. infestans, and identify genes involved in the interaction with its host potato.
  • Although much previous research has been heavily biased towards genetic markers, genomics studies, and gene discovery, recent research has been driven by the need to determine the function of novel oomycete genes in the P. infestans / potato interaction.

Key collaborators

Within The James Hutton Institute:

Outside The James Hutton Institute:

  • Pieter van West (University of Aberdeen, UK)
  • Jim Beynon (Warwick-HRI, UK)
  • Sophien Kamoun (Ohio State University, USA)
  • Chad Nusbaum (Broad Institute, USA).


  • Whisson, S.C. (2016) Strategies, resources and tools to identify targets for new disease control chemicals for oomycete plant pathogens., In: Chowdappa, P., Sharma, D. Singh, A. & Misra, A.K. (eds.). Perspectives of Plant Pathology in Genomic Era. New Delhi, India, Today and Tomorrow Publishers, Chapter 13, pp271-292. ISBN 1-55528-382-9 (USA).
  • Boevink, P.; Birch, P.R.J.; Whisson, S.C. (2011) Imaging fluorescently tagged Phytophthora effector proteins inside infected plant tissue., In: McDowell, J.M. (ed.). Methods in Molecular Biology Plant Immunity: Methods and Protocols. Humana Press, Totowa, New Jersey, USA, Chapter 712, pp195-209.
  • Whisson, S.C. (2010) Phytophthora., In: Roberts, K. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Life Science. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, UK,
  • Whisson, S.C.; Grenville-Briggs, L.J.; van West, P.; Avrova, A.O. (2009) Mechanism and application of gene silencing in oomycetes., In: Lamour, K.H. & Kamoun, S. (eds.). Oomycete Genetics and Genomics: Diversity, Interactions and Research Tools. Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, New Jersey, USA, Chapter 25, 493-515.

  • 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.
  • Whisson, S.C.; Avrova, A.O.; Birch, P.R.J.; Adam, M.; Blok, V.C.; Jones, J.T. (2004) Functional genomic tools for the major eukaryotic pathogens of potato., Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 2003/2004, pp127-128.
  • Whisson, S.C.; Avrova, A.O.; Armstrong, M.R.; Jones, J.T.; Venter, E.; Birch, P.R.J. (2004) Targeting late blight with gene discovery., Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 2002/2003, pp102-103.
  • Whisson, S.C.; Avrova, A.O.; Armstrong, M.R.; Campbell, E.; Birch, P.R.J. (2002) Late blight of potato: Pathogen genomics approaches to a continuing problem., Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 2001/2002, pp29-32.
  • Whisson, S.C.; van der Lee, T.; Bryan, G.J.; Waugh, R.; Govers, F.; Birch, P.R.J. (2001) Phytophthora infestans genomics: positional cloning of avirulence genes., Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 2000/2001, pp132-135.

Printed from /staff/stephen-whisson on 09/08/22 04:08:51 PM

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.