Maintenance of variation in virulence and reproduction in populations of an agricultural plant pathogen

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
A. DuttaLuke G. Barrett


Genetic diversity within pathogen populations is critically important for predicting pathogen evolution, disease outcomes and prevalence. However, we lack a good understanding of the processes maintaining genetic variation and constraints on pathogen life-history evolution. Here, we analyzed interactions between 12 wheat host genotypes and 145 strains of Zymoseptoria tritici from five global populations to investigate the evolution and maintenance of variation in pathogen virulence and reproduction. We found a strong positive correlation between virulence and reproduction, with substantial variation in both traits maintained within each pathogen population. On average, highly virulent isolates exhibited higher fecundity, which might increase transmission potential in agricultural fields planted to homogeneous hosts at a high density. We further showed that pathogen strains with a narrow host range (i.e. specialists) for fecundity were on average less virulent, and those with a broader host range (i.e. generalists) for virulence were on average less fecund on a given specific host. These trade-offs costs associated with host specialization might constrain the directional evolution of virulence and fecundity. We conclude that sel...Continue Reading

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