Media Releases

U of T scientists map genome that causes Dutch Elm Disease

March 14, 2013

TORONTO, ON — Researchers from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to and Sick­Kids Research Insti­tute announced today that they have suc­cess­ful­ly mapped the genes in the fun­gus that caus­es Dutch Elm Dis­ease.

The researchers believe this is the first time the 30 mil­lion DNA let­ters for the fun­gus Ophios­toma ulmi have been mapped. The find­ings, pub­lished in this week’s online jour­nal BMC Genomics, could help sci­en­tists fig­ure out how to pre­vent the fun­gus from destroy­ing elm trees in the future.

“Essen­tial­ly, Dutch Elm Dis­ease is caused by a fun­gus that pre­vents the nor­mal dis­tri­b­u­tion of nutri­ents in the tree by block­ing the flow of sap,” said Alan Moses, an Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s depart­ment of Cell & Sys­tems Biol­o­gy, one of the authors of the study. “The tree wilts and even­tu­al­ly dies.

“Rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle is known about the fun­gus that caus­es Dutch Elm Dis­ease, and it’s a very dis­tant rel­a­tive of the fun­gi that are more often stud­ied by researchers, like bread mould or beer yeast. We hope that the avail­abil­i­ty of the genome will encour­age and speed-up research on this fun­gus – it’s only a mat­ter of time before most the elm trees are gone.”

Dutch Elm dis­ease is believed to have orig­i­nat­ed in the Himalayas, trav­el­ling to Europe from the Dutch East Indies in the late 1800s. It emerged in Hol­land short­ly after the First World War, earn­ing the name Dutch Elm Dis­ease.

It is the most destruc­tive elm tree dis­ease in North Amer­i­ca, and typ­i­cal­ly kills most trees with­in two years of infec­tion. Dutch Elm Dis­ease is a prob­lem in many parts of the world, par­tic­u­lar­ly Scot­land, Spain, Italy, West­ern Cana­da and New Zealand.

• The abstract is avail­able online:–2164/14/162/abstract —–2164/14/162/abstract.

• High res­o­lu­tion pho­tos are avail­able for down­load (Pho­to cred­it for both: Mar­tin Hubbes):


For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact:

Dr. Alan Moses, Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, Depart­ment of Cell & Sys­tems Biol­o­gy
Tel: 416–946-3980,

Dr. Dinesh Chris­ten­dat, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, Depart­ment of Cell & Sys­tems Biol­o­gy
Tel: 416–946-8373 or 416–948-4515,

U of T media rela­tions
Tel: 416–978-0100,