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05 Aug 2020
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Transposable Elements are an evolutionary force shaping genomic plasticity in the parthenogenetic root-knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita

DNA transposons drive genome evolution of the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita

Recommended by based on reviews by Daniel Vitales and 2 anonymous reviewers

Duplications, mutations and recombination may be considered the main sources of genomic variation and evolution. In addition, sexual recombination is essential in purging deleterious mutations and allowing advantageous allelic combinations to occur (Glémin et al. 2019). However, in parthenogenetic asexual organisms, variation cannot be explained by sexual recombination, and other mechanisms must account for it. Although it is known that transposable elements (TE) may influence on genome structure and gene expression patterns, their role as a primary source of genomic variation and rapid adaptability has received less attention. An important role of TE on adaptive genome evolution has been documented for fungal phytopathogens (Faino et al. 2016), suggesting that TE activity might explain the evolutionary dynamics of this type of organisms.
The phytopathogen nematode Meloidogyne incognita is one of the worst agricultural pests in warm climates (Savary et al. 2019). This species, as well as other root-knot nematodes (RKN), shows a wide geographical distribution range infecting diverse groups of plants. Although allopolyploidy may have played an important role on the wide adaptation of this phytopathogen, it may not explain by itself the rapid changes required to overcome plant resistance in a few generations. Paradoxically, M. incognita reproduces asexually via mitotic parthenogenesis (Trudgill and Blok 2001; Castagnone-Sereno and Danchin 2014) and only few single nucleotide variations were identified between different host races isolates (Koutsovoulos et al. 2020). Therefore, this is an interesting model to explore other sources of genomic variation such the TE activity and its role on the success and adaptability of this phytopathogen.
To address these questions, Kozlowski et al. (2020) estimated the TE mobility across 12 geographical isolates that presented phenotypic variations in Meloidogyne incognita, concluding that recent activity of TE in both genic and regulatory regions might have given rise to relevant functional differences between genomes. This was the first estimation of TE activity as a mechanism probably involved in genome plasticity of this root-knot nematode. This study also shed light on evolutionary mechanisms of asexual organisms with an allopolyploid origin. These authors re-annotated the 185 Mb triploid genome of M. incognita for TE content analysis using stringent filters (Kozlowski 2020a), and estimated activity by their distribution using a population genomics approach including isolates from different crops and locations. Canonical TE represented around 4.7% of the M. incognita genome of which mostly correspond to TIR (Terminal Inverted Repeats) and MITEs (Miniature Inverted repeat Transposable Elements) followed by Maverick DNA transposons and LTR (Long Terminal Repeats) retrotransposons. The result that most TE found were represented by DNA transposons is similar to the previous studies with the nematode species model Caenorhabditis elegans (Bessereau 2006; Kozlowski 2020b) and other nematodes as well. Canonical TE annotations were highly similar to their consensus sequences containing transposition machinery when TE are autonomous, whereas no genes involved in transposition were found in non-autonomous ones. These findings suggest recent activity of TE in the M. incognita genome. Other relevant result was the significant variation in TE presence frequencies found in more than 3,500 loci across isolates, following a bimodal distribution within isolates. However, variation in TE frequencies was low to moderate between isolates recapitulating the phylogenetic signal of isolates DNA sequences polymorphisms. A detailed analysis of TE frequencies across isolates allowed identifying polymorphic TE loci, some of which might be neo-insertions mostly of TIRs and MITEs (Kozlowski 2020c). Interestingly, the two thirds of the fixed neo-insertions were located in coding regions or in regulatory regions impacting expression of specific genes in M. incognita. Future research on proteomics is needed to evaluate the functional impact that these insertions have on adaptive evolution in M. incognita. In this line, this pioneer research of Kozlowski et al. (2020) is a first step that is also relevant to remark the role that allopolyploidy and reproduction have had on shaping nematode genomes.


[1] Bessereau J-L. 2006. Transposons in C. elegans. WormBook. 10.1895/wormbook.1.70.1
[2] Castagnone-Sereno P, Danchin EGJ. 2014. Parasitic success without sex - the nematode experience. J. Evol. Biol. 27:1323-1333. 10.1111/jeb.12337
[3] Faino L, Seidl MF, Shi-Kunne X, Pauper M, Berg GCM van den, Wittenberg AHJ, Thomma BPHJ. 2016. Transposons passively and actively contribute to evolution of the two-speed genome of a fungal pathogen. Genome Res. 26:1091-1100. 10.1101/gr.204974.116
[4] Glémin S, François CM, Galtier N. 2019. Genome Evolution in Outcrossing vs. Selfing vs. Asexual Species. In: Anisimova M, editor. Evolutionary Genomics: Statistical and Computational Methods. Methods in Molecular Biology. New York, NY: Springer. p. 331-369. 10.1007/978-1-4939-9074-0_11
[5] Koutsovoulos GD, Marques E, Arguel M-J, Duret L, Machado ACZ, Carneiro RMDG, Kozlowski DK, Bailly-Bechet M, Castagnone-Sereno P, Albuquerque EVS, et al. 2020. Population genomics supports clonal reproduction and multiple independent gains and losses of parasitic abilities in the most devastating nematode pest. Evol. Appl. 13:442-457. 10.1111/eva.12881
[6] Kozlowski D. 2020a. Transposable Elements prediction and annotation in the M. incognita genome. Portail Data INRAE. 10.15454/EPTDOS
[7] Kozlowski D. 2020b. Transposable Elements prediction and annotation in the C. elegans genome. Portail Data INRAE. 10.15454/LQCIW0
[8] Kozlowski D. 2020c. TE polymorphisms detection and analysis with PopoolationTE2. Portail Data INRAE. 10.15454/EWJCT8
[9] Kozlowski DK, Hassanaly-Goulamhoussen R, Da Rocha M, Koutsovoulos GD, Bailly-Bechet M, Danchin EG (2020) Transposable Elements are an evolutionary force shaping genomic plasticity in the parthenogenetic root-knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita. bioRxiv, 2020.04.30.069948, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Evolutionary Biology. 10.1101/2020.04.30.069948
[10] Savary S, Willocquet L, Pethybridge SJ, Esker P, McRoberts N, Nelson A. 2019. The global burden of pathogens and pests on major food crops. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 3:430-439. 10.1038/s41559-018-0793-y
[11] Trudgill DL, Blok VC. 2001. Apomictic, polyphagous root-knot nematodes: exceptionally successful and damaging biotrophic root pathogens. Annu Rev Phytopathol 39:53-77. 10.1146/annurev.phyto.39.1.53

Transposable Elements are an evolutionary force shaping genomic plasticity in the parthenogenetic root-knot nematode Meloidogyne incognitaDjampa KL Kozlowski, Rahim Hassanaly-Goulamhoussen, Martine Da Rocha, Georgios D Koutsovoulos, Marc Bailly-Bechet, Etienne GJ Danchin<p>Despite reproducing without sexual recombination, the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita is adaptive and versatile. Indeed, this species displays a global distribution, is able to parasitize a large range of plants and can overcome plant ...Adaptation, Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, Genome Evolution, Molecular Evolution, Population Genetics / Genomics, Reproduction and SexInes Alvarez2020-05-04 11:43:14 View
26 Oct 2020
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Power and limits of selection genome scans on temporal data from a selfing population

Detecting loci under natural selection from temporal genomic data of selfing populations

Recommended by based on reviews by Christian Huber and 2 anonymous reviewers

The observed levels of genomic diversity in contemporary populations are the result of changes imposed by several evolutionary processes. Among them, natural selection is known to dramatically shape the genetic diversity of loci associated with phenotypes which affect the fitness of carriers. As such, many efforts have been dedicated towards developing methods to detect signatures of natural selection from genomes of contemporary samples [1].
Recent technological advances made the generation of large-scale genomic data from temporal samples, either from experimental populations or historical or ancient samples, accessible to a wide scientific community [2]. Notably, temporal population genomic data allow for a direct observation and study of how, for instance, allele frequencies change through time in response to evolutionary stimuli. Such information can be exploited to detect loci under natural selection, either via mathematical modelling or by investigating empirical distributions [3].
However, most of current methods to detect selection from temporal genomic data have largely ignored selfing populations, despite the latter comprising a significant proportion of species with social and economic importance. Selfing changes genomic patterns by reducing the effective recombination rate, which makes distinguishing between neutral evolution and natural selection even more challenging than for the case of outcrossing populations [4]. Nevertheless, an outlier-approach based on temporal genomic data for the selfing Arabidopsis thaliana population revealed loci under selection [5].
This study suggested the promise of detecting selection for selfing populations and encouraged further investigations to test the power of selection scans under different mating systems.
To address this question, Navascués et al. [6] extended a previously proposed approach for temporal genome scan [7] to incorporate partial self-fertilization. In the original implementation [7], it is assumed that, under neutrality, all loci provide levels of genetic differentiation drawn from the same distribution. If some of the loci are under selection, such distribution should show heterogeneity. Navascués et al. [6] proposed a test for the homogeneity between loci-specific and genome-wide differentiation by deriving a null distribution of FST via simulations using SLiM [8]. After filtering for low-frequency variants and correct for multiple tests, authors derived a statistical test for selection and assess its power under a wide range of scenarios of selfing rate, selection coefficient, duration and type of selection [6].
The newly proposed test achieved good performance to distinguish between neutral and selected loci in most tested scenarios.
As expected, the test's performance significantly drops for scenarios of high selfing rates and selection from standing variation. Additionally, the probability to correctly detect selection decreases with increasing distance from the causal variant. Intriguingly, the test showed high power when the selected ancestral allele had an initial low frequency, and when the selected derived allele had a high initial frequency. When applied to a data set of around 1,000 SNPs from the highly selfing Medicago truncatula population, an annual plant of the legume family [9], the test did not provide any candidate loci under selection [6].
In summary, the detection of loci under selection in selfing populations is and largely remains a challenging task even when explictly account for the different mating system. However, recombination events that occurred before the selective pressure allow ancestral beneficial alleles to exhibit a detectable pattern of non-neutrality. As such, in partially selfing populations, the strength of the footprint of selection depends on several factors, mostly on the selfing rate, the time of onset and type of selection.
One major assumption of this study is that the model implies unstructured population and continuity between samples obtained from the same geographical location over time. As such assumptions are typically violated in real populations, further research into the effect of more complex demographic scenarios is desired to fully understand the power to detect selection in selfing populations. Furthermore, more power could be gained by including additional genomic information at each time point. In this context, recent approaches that make full use of genomic data based on deep learning [10] may contribute significantly towards this goal. Similarly, the effect of data filtering on the power to detect selection should be further explored, especially in the context of DNA resequencing experiments. These analyses will help elucidate the power offered by selection scans from temporal genomic data in selfing populations.


[1] Stern AJ, Nielsen R (2019) Detecting Natural Selection. In: Handbook of Statistical Genomics , pp. 397–40. John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.
[2] Leonardi M, Librado P, Der Sarkissian C, Schubert M, Alfarhan AH, Alquraishi SA, Al-Rasheid KAS, Gamba C, Willerslev E, Orlando L (2017) Evolutionary Patterns and Processes: Lessons from Ancient DNA. Systematic Biology, 66, e1–e29.
[3] Dehasque M, Ávila‐Arcos MC, Díez‐del‐Molino D, Fumagalli M, Guschanski K, Lorenzen ED, Malaspinas A-S, Marques‐Bonet T, Martin MD, Murray GGR, Papadopulos AST, Therkildsen NO, Wegmann D, Dalén L, Foote AD (2020) Inference of natural selection from ancient DNA. Evolution Letters, 4, 94–108.
[4] Vitalis R, Couvet D (2001) Two-locus identity probabilities and identity disequilibrium in a partially selfing subdivided population. Genetics Research, 77, 67–81.
[5] Frachon L, Libourel C, Villoutreix R, Carrère S, Glorieux C, Huard-Chauveau C, Navascués M, Gay L, Vitalis R, Baron E, Amsellem L, Bouchez O, Vidal M, Le Corre V, Roby D, Bergelson J, Roux F (2017) Intermediate degrees of synergistic pleiotropy drive adaptive evolution in ecological time. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 1, 1551–1561.
[6] Navascués M, Becheler A, Gay L, Ronfort J, Loridon K, Vitalis R (2020) Power and limits of selection genome scans on temporal data from a selfing population. bioRxiv, 2020.05.06.080895, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Evol Biol.
[7] Goldringer I, Bataillon T (2004) On the Distribution of Temporal Variations in Allele Frequency: Consequences for the Estimation of Effective Population Size and the Detection of Loci Undergoing Selection. Genetics, 168, 563–568.
[8] Messer PW (2013) SLiM: Simulating Evolution with Selection and Linkage. Genetics, 194, 1037–1039.
[9] Siol M, Prosperi JM, Bonnin I, Ronfort J (2008) How multilocus genotypic pattern helps to understand the history of selfing populations: a case study in Medicago truncatula. Heredity, 100, 517–525.
[10] Sanchez T, Cury J, Charpiat G, Jay F Deep learning for population size history inference: Design, comparison and combination with approximate Bayesian computation. Molecular Ecology Resources, n/a.

Power and limits of selection genome scans on temporal data from a selfing populationMiguel Navascués, Arnaud Becheler, Laurène Gay, Joëlle Ronfort, Karine Loridon, Renaud Vitalis<p>Tracking genetic changes of populations through time allows a more direct study of the evolutionary processes acting on the population than a single contemporary sample. Several statistical methods have been developed to characterize the demogr...Adaptation, Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, Population Genetics / Genomics, Reproduction and SexMatteo Fumagalli2020-05-08 10:34:31 View
05 Oct 2017
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Using Connectivity To Identify Climatic Drivers Of Local Adaptation

A new approach to identifying drivers of local adaptation

Recommended by based on reviews by Ruth Arabelle Hufbauer and Thomas Lenormand

Local adaptation, the higher fitness a population achieves in its local “home” environment relative to other environments is a crucial phase in the divergence of populations, and as such both generates and maintains diversity. Local adaptation is enhanced by selection and genetic variation in the relevant traits, and decreased by gene flow and genetic drift.

Demonstrating local adaptation is laborious, and is typically done with a reciprocal transplant design [1], documenting repeated geographic clines [e.g. 2, 3] also provides strong evidence of local adaptation. Even when well documented, it is often unknown which aspects of the environment impose selection. Indeed, differences in environment between different sites that are measured during studies of local adaptation explain little of the variance in the degree of local adaptation [4]. This poses a problem to population management. Given climate change and habitat destruction, understanding the environmental drivers of local adaptation can be crucially important to conducting successful assisted migration or targeted gene flow.

In this manuscript, Macdonald et al. [5] propose a means of identifying which aspects of the environment select for local adaptation without conducting a reciprocal transplant experiment. The idea is that the strength of relationships between traits and environmental variables that are due to plastic responses to the environment will not be influenced by gene flow, but the strength of trait-environment relationships that are due to local adaptation should decrease with gene flow. This then can be used to reduce the somewhat arbitrary list of environmental variables on which data are available down to a targeted list more likely to drive local adaptation in specific traits. To perform such an analysis requires three things: 1) measurements of traits of interest in a species across locations, 2) an estimate of gene flow between locations, which can be replaced with a biologically meaningful estimate of how well connected those locations are from the point of view of the study species, and 3) data on climate and other environmental variables from across a species’ range, many of which are available on line.

Macdonald et al. [5] demonstrate their approach using a skink (Lampropholis coggeri). They collected morphological and physiological data on individuals from multiple populations. They estimated connectivity among those locations using information on habitat suitability and dispersal potential [6], and gleaned climatic data from available databases and the literature. They find that two physiological traits, the critical minimum and maximum temperatures, show the strongest signs of local adaptation, specifically local adaptation to annual mean precipitation, precipitation of the driest quarter, and minimum annual temperature. These are then aspects of skink phenotype and skink habitats that could be explored further, or could be used to provide background information if migration efforts, for example for genetic rescue [7] were initiated. The approach laid out has the potential to spark a novel genre of research on local adaptation. It its simplest form, knowing that local adaptation is eroded by gene flow, it is intuitive to consider that if connectivity reduces the strength of the relationship between an environmental variable and a trait, that the trait might be involved in local adaptation. The approach is less intuitive than that, however – it relies not connectivity per-se, but the interaction between connectivity and different environmental variables and how that interaction alters trait-environment relationships. The authors lay out a number of useful caveats and potential areas that could use further development. It will be interesting to see how the community of evolutionary biologists responds.


[1] Blanquart F, Kaltz O, Nuismer SL and Gandon S. 2013. A practical guide to measuring local adaptation. Ecology Letters, 16: 1195-1205. doi: 10.1111/ele.12150

[2] Huey RB, Gilchrist GW, Carlson ML, Berrigan D and Serra L. 2000. Rapid evolution of a geographic cline in size in an introduced fly. Science, 287: 308-309. doi: 10.1126/science.287.5451.308

[3] Milesi P, Lenormand T, Lagneau C, Weill M and Labbé P. 2016. Relating fitness to long-term environmental variations in natura. Molecular Ecology, 25: 5483-5499. doi: 10.1111/mec.13855

[4] Hereford, J. 2009. A quantitative survey of local adaptation and fitness trade-offs. The American Naturalist 173: 579-588. doi: 10.1086/597611

[5] Macdonald SL, Llewelyn J and Phillips BL. 2017. Using connectivity to identify climatic drivers of local adaptation. bioRxiv, ver. 4 of October 4, 2017. doi: 10.1101/145169

[6] Macdonald SL, Llewelyn J, Moritz C and Phillips BL. 2017. Peripheral isolates as sources of adaptive diversity under climate change. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 5:88. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2017.00088

[7] Whiteley AR, Fitzpatrick SW, Funk WC and Tallmon DA. 2015. Genetic rescue to the rescue. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 30: 42-49. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.10.009

Using Connectivity To Identify Climatic Drivers Of Local AdaptationStewart L. Macdonald, John Llewelyn, Ben PhillipsDespite being able to conclusively demonstrate local adaptation, we are still often unable to objectively determine the climatic drivers of local adaptation. Given the rapid rate of global change, understanding the climatic drivers of local adapta...Adaptation, Evolutionary ApplicationsRuth Arabelle Hufbauer Thomas Lenormand2017-06-06 13:06:54 View
06 May 2019
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When sinks become sources: adaptive colonization in asexuals

Fisher to the rescue

Recommended by and based on reviews by 3 anonymous reviewers

The ability of a population to adapt to a new niche is an important phenomenon in evolutionary biology. The colonisation of a new volcanic island by plant species; the colonisation of a host treated by antibiotics by a-resistant strain; the Ebola virus transmitting from bats to humans and spreading epidemically in Western Africa, are all examples of a population invading a new niche, adapting and eventually establishing in this new environment.

Adaptation to a new niche can be studied using source-sink models. In the original environment —the “source”—, the population enjoys a positive growth-rate and is self-sustaining, while in the new environment —the “sink”— the population has a negative growth rate and is able to sustain only by the continuous influx of migrants from the source. Understanding the dynamics of adaptation to the sink environment is challenging from a theoretical standpoint, because it requires modelling the demography of the sink as well as the transient dynamics of adaptation. Moreover, local selection in the sink and immigration from the source create distributions of genotypes that complicate the use of many common mathematical approaches.

In their paper, Lavigne et al. [1], develop a new deterministic model of adaptation to a harsh sink environment in an asexual species. The fitness of an individual is maximal when a number of phenotypes are tuned to an optimal value, and declines monotonously as phenotypes are further away from this optimum. This model —called Fisher’s Geometric Model— generates a GxE interaction for fitness because the phenotypic optimum in the sink environment is distinct from that in the source environment [2]. The authors circumvent mathematical difficulties by developing an original approach based on tracking the deterministic dynamics of the cumulant generating function of the fitness distribution in the sink. They derive a number of important results on the dynamics of adaptation to the sink:

  • From the point where immigration from the source to the sink starts, four phases of adaptation are observed. After a short transient phase (phase 1), a migration-selection balance is reached in the sink (phase 2). After a while, thanks to the immigration of rare adapted migrants and mutation in the sink, a small fraction of the sink population exhibits a close-to-optimal phenotype. This small adapted fraction grows in frequency and mean fitness rapidly increases in the sink (phase 3). Finally, the population settles around the sink optimum (phase 4) and, hurray, the sink is now a source!

  • Interestingly, in this model the evolutionary dynamics do not depend on the immigration rate. In other words, adaptation will proceed at the same rate regardless of how many immigrants invade the sink. This is because the impact of immigration on adaptation depends on the rate of immigration relative to the sink density. This ratio is actually independent of immigration in a model where the sink is initially empty, migration from the sink back to the source is negligible and without density-dependence in the sink.

  • In this model, mutation is a double-edged sword. Adapted phenotypes emerge from new mutations, and under this effect alone a higher mutation rate would translate into a shorter time to establishment in the sink. However, mutations may also have deleterious effects by displacing the phenotype away from the optimum. This mutation load will be greater when individuals need to simultaneously tune a large number of phenotypes. As a consequence of these two effects of mutations, time to establishment is minimal for an intermediate mutation rate. This result emerges from Fisher’s Geometric Model, but may hold more generally for biologically plausible fitness landscapes where mutations generates both beneficial (allowing adaptation to the sink) and deleterious genotypes.

  • Lastly, in Fisher’s Geometric Model, the time to establishment increases superlinearly with harshness of the sink when the sink is too harsh, and establishment may occur only after a very long time. In these harsh sinks, the adapted genotypes are very few and increase very slowly in frequency, making the second phase of adaptation much longer. Thus, and as a direct consequence of Fisher’s Geometric Model, adding a “stepping stone” intermediate environment would allow faster adaptation to the extreme environment.

In conclusion, this theoretical work presents a method based on Fisher’s Geometric Model and the use of cumulant generating functions to resolve some aspects of adaptation to a sink environment. It generates a number of theoretical predictions for the adaptive colonisation of a sink by an asexual species with some standing genetic variation. It will be a fascinating task to examine whether these predictions hold in experimental evolution systems: will we observe the four phases of the dynamics of mean fitness in the sink environment? Will the rate of adaptation indeed be independent of the immigration rate? Is there an optimal rate of mutation for adaptation to the sink? Such critical tests of the theory will greatly improve our understanding of adaptation to novel environments.


[1] Lavigne, F., Martin, G., Anciaux, Y., Papaïx, J., and Roques, L. (2019). When sinks become sources: adaptive colonization in asexuals. bioRxiv, 433235, ver. 5 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.1101/433235
[2] Martin, G., and Lenormand, T. (2006). A general multivariate extension of Fisher's geometrical model and the distribution of mutation fitness effects across species. Evolution, 60, 893-907. doi: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2006.tb01169.x

When sinks become sources: adaptive colonization in asexualsFlorian Lavigne, Guillaume Martin, Yoann Anciaux, Julien Papaïx, Lionel Roques<p>The successful establishment of a population into a new empty habitat outside of its initial niche is a phenomenon akin to evolutionary rescue in the presence of immigration. It underlies a wide range of processes, such as biological invasions ...Adaptation, Evolutionary Applications, Evolutionary Dynamics, Evolutionary EcologyFrançois Blanquart2018-10-03 20:59:16 View
22 Oct 2019
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Geographic variation in adult and embryonic desiccation tolerance in a terrestrial-breeding frog

Tough as old boots: amphibians from drier habitats are more resistant to desiccation, but less flexible at exploiting wet conditions

Recommended by based on reviews by Jennifer Nicole Lohr, Juan Diego Gaitan-Espitia and 1 anonymous reviewer

Species everywhere are facing rapid climatic change, and we are increasingly asking whether populations will adapt, shift, or perish [1]. There is a growing realisation that, despite limited within-population genetic variation, many species exhibit substantial geographic variation in climate-relevant traits. This geographic variation might play an important role in facilitating adaptation to climate change [2,3].
Much of our understanding of geographic variation in climate-relevant traits comes from model organisms [e.g. 4]. But as our concern grows, we make larger efforts to understand geographic variation in non-model organisms also. If we understand what adaptive geographic variation exists within a species, we can make management decisions around targeted gene flow [5]. And as empirical examples accumulate, we can look for generalities that can inform management of unstudied species [e.g. 6,7]. Rudin-Bitterli’s paper [8] is an excellent contribution in this direction.
Rudin-Bitterli and her co-authors [8] sampled six frog populations distributed across a strong rainfall gradient. They then assayed these frogs and their offspring for a battery of fitness-relevant traits. The results clearly show patterns consistent with local adaptation to water availability, but they also reveal trade-offs. In their study, frogs from the driest source populations were resilient to the hydric environment: it didn’t really affect them very much whether they were raised in wet or dry environments. By contrast, frogs from wet source areas did better in wet environments, and they tended to do better in these wet environments than did animals from the dry-adapted populations. Thus, it appears that the resilience of the dry-adapted populations comes at a cost: frogs from these populations cannot ramp up performance in response to ideal (wet) conditions.
These data have been carefully and painstakingly collected, and they are important. They reveal not only important geographic variation in response to hydric stress (in a vertebrate), but they also adumbrate a more general trade-off: that the jack of all trades might be master of none. Specialist-generalist trade-offs are often argued (and regularly observed) to exist [e.g. 9,10], and here we see them arise in climate-relevant traits also. Thus, Rudin-Bitterli’s paper is an important piece of the empirical puzzle, and one that points to generalities important for both theory and management.


[1] Hoffmann, A. A., and Sgrò, C. M. (2011). Climate change and evolutionary adaptation. Nature, 470(7335), 479–485. doi: 10.1038/nature09670
[2] Aitken, S. N., and Whitlock, M. C. (2013). Assisted Gene Flow to Facilitate Local Adaptation to Climate Change. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 44(1), 367–388. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-110512-135747
[3] Kelly, E., and Phillips, B. L. (2016). Targeted gene flow for conservation. Conservation Biology, 30(2), 259–267. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12623
[4] Sgrò, C. M., Overgaard, J., Kristensen, T. N., Mitchell, K. A., Cockerell, F. E., and Hoffmann, A. A. (2010). A comprehensive assessment of geographic variation in heat tolerance and hardening capacity in populations of Drosophila melanogaster from eastern Australia. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 23(11), 2484–2493. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.02110.x
[5] Macdonald, S. L., Llewelyn, J., and Phillips, B. L. (2018). Using connectivity to identify climatic drivers of local adaptation. Ecology Letters, 21(2), 207–216. doi: 10.1111/ele.12883
[6] Hoffmann, A. A., Chown, S. L., and Clusella‐Trullas, S. (2012). Upper thermal limits in terrestrial ectotherms: how constrained are they? Functional Ecology, 27(4), 934–949. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2012.02036.x
[7] Araújo, M. B., Ferri‐Yáñez, F., Bozinovic, F., Marquet, P. A., Valladares, F., and Chown, S. L. (2013). Heat freezes niche evolution. Ecology Letters, 16(9), 1206–1219. doi: 10.1111/ele.12155
[8] Rudin-Bitterli, T. S., Evans, J. P., and Mitchell, N. J. (2019). Geographic variation in adult and embryonic desiccation tolerance in a terrestrial-breeding frog. BioRxiv, 314351, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.1101/314351
[9] Kassen, R. (2002). The experimental evolution of specialists, generalists, and the maintenance of diversity. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 15(2), 173–190. doi: 10.1046/j.1420-9101.2002.00377.x
[10] Angilletta, M. J. J. (2009). Thermal Adaptation: A theoretical and empirical synthesis. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Geographic variation in adult and embryonic desiccation tolerance in a terrestrial-breeding frogRudin-Bitterli, T, Evans, J. P. and Mitchell, N. J.<p>Intra-specific variation in the ability of individuals to tolerate environmental perturbations is often neglected when considering the impacts of climate change. Yet this information is potentially crucial for mitigating any deleterious effects...Adaptation, Evolutionary Applications, Evolutionary EcologyBen Phillips2018-05-07 03:35:08 View
21 Nov 2022
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Artisanal and farmers bread making practices differently shape fungal species community composition in French sourdoughs

The variety of bread-making practices promotes diversity conservation in food microbial communities

Recommended by and based on reviews by 2 anonymous reviewers

Domesticated organisms are excellent models for understanding ecology and evolution and they are important for our food production and safety. While less studied than plants and animals, micro-organisms have also been domesticated, in particular for food fermentation [1]. The most studied domesticated micro-organism is the yeast used to make wine, beer and bread, Saccharomyces cerevisiae [2, 3, 4].

Filamentous fungi used for cheese-making have recently gained interest, for example Penicillium roqueforti used to make blue cheeses and P. camemberti to make soft cheeses [5, 6, 7, 8]. As for plants and animals, domestication has led to beneficial traits for food production in fermenting fungi, but also to bottlenecks and degeneration [6, 7, 9]; P. camemberti for example does not produce enough spores any more for optimal culture and inoculation and P. roqueforti has lost sexual fertility [9]. The loss of genetic diversity and of species diversity in our food production system is concerning for multiple reasons : i) it jeopardizes future improvement in the face of global changes ; ii) it causes the loss of evolved diversity during centuries under human selection, and therefore of beneficial characteristics and specificities that we may never be able to recover ; iii) it leads to degeneration in the few cultivated strains; iv) it impoverishes the diversity of our food products and local adaptation of production practices. 

The study of domesticated fungi used for food fermentation has focused so far on the evolution of lineages and on their metabolic specificities. Microbiological assemblages and species diversity have been much less studied, while they likely also have a strong impact on the quality and safety of final products. This study by Elisa Michel and colleagues [10] addresses this question, using an interdisciplinary participatory research approach including bakers, psycho-sociologists and microbiologists to analyse bread-making practices and their impact on microbial communities in sourdough. Elisa Michel and colleagues [10] identified two distinct groups of bread-making practices based on interviews and surveys, with farmer-like practices (low bread production, use of ancient wheat populations, manual kneading, working at ambient temperature, long fermentation periods and no use of commercial baker’s yeast) versus more intensive, artisanal-like practices. Metabarcoding and microbial culture-based analyses showed that the well-known baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, was, surprisingly, not the most common species in French organic sourdoughs. Kazachstania was the most represented yeast genus over all sourdoughs, both in terms of read abundance and of species diversity. Kazachstania species were also often dominant in individual sourdoughs, but Saccharomyces uvarum or Torulaspora delbrueckii could also be the dominant yeast species.

Metabarcoding analyses further revealed that the composition of the fungal communities differed between the farmer-like and more intensive practices, representing the first evidence of the influence of artisanal practices on microbial communities. The fungal communities were impacted by a combination of bread-making variables including the type of wheat varieties, the length of fermentation, the quantity of bread made per week and the use of commercial yeast. Maintaining on farm less intensive bread-making practices, may allow the preservation of typical species and phenotypic diversity in microbial communities in sourdough. Farmer-like practices did not lead to higher diversity within sourdoughs but, overall, the diversity of bread-making practices allow maintaining a larger diversity in sourdoughs. For example, different Kazachstania species were most abundant in sourdoughs from artisanal-like and farmer-like practices. Interviews with the bakers suggested the role of dispersal of Kazachstania species in shaping sourdough microbial communities, dispersal occurring by seed exchanges, sourdough mixing or gifts, bread-making training in common or working in one another’s bakery. Nikolai Vavilov [11] had already highlighted for crops the importance of isolated cultures and selection in different farms for generating and preserving crop diversity, but also the importance of seed exchange for fostering adaptation. 

Furthermore, one of the yeast frequently found in artisanal sourdoughs, Kazachstania humilis, displayed phenotypic differences between sourdough and non-sourdough strains, suggesting domestication. The sourdough strains exhibited significantly higher CO2 production rate and a lower fermentation latency-phase time. 

The study by Elisa Michel and colleagues [10] is thus novel and inspiring in showing the importance of interdisciplinary studies, combining metabarcoding, microbiology and interviews for assessing the composition and diversity of microbial communities in human-made food, and in revealing the impact of artisanal-like bread-making practices in preserving microbial community diversity.

Interdisciplinary studies are still rare but have already shown the importance of combining ethno-ecology, biology and evolution to decipher the role of human practices on genetic diversity in crops, animals and food microorganisms and to help preserving genetic resources [12]. For example, in the case of the bread wheat Triticum aestivum, such interdisciplinary studies have shown that genetic diversity has been shaped by farmers’ seed diffusion and farming practices [13]. We need more of such interdisciplinary studies on the impact of farmer versus industrial agricultural and food-making practices as we urgently need to preserve the diversity of micro-organisms used in food production that we are losing at a rapid pace [6, 7, 14]. 


[1] Dupont J, Dequin S, Giraud T, Le Tacon F, Marsit S, Ropars J, Richard F, Selosse M-A (2017) Fungi as a Source of Food. Microbiology Spectrum, 5, 5.3.09.

[2] Legras J-L, Galeote V, Bigey F, Camarasa C, Marsit S, Nidelet T, Sanchez I, Couloux A, Guy J, Franco-Duarte R, Marcet-Houben M, Gabaldon T, Schuller D, Sampaio JP, Dequin S (2018) Adaptation of S. cerevisiae to Fermented Food Environments Reveals Remarkable Genome Plasticity and the Footprints of Domestication. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 35, 1712–1727.

[3] Bai F-Y, Han D-Y, Duan S-F, Wang Q-M (2022) The Ecology and Evolution of the Baker’s Yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Genes, 13, 230.

[4] Fay JC, Benavides JA (2005) Evidence for Domesticated and Wild Populations of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. PLOS Genetics, 1, e5.

[5] Ropars J, Rodríguez de la Vega RC, López-Villavicencio M, Gouzy J, Sallet E, Dumas É, Lacoste S, Debuchy R, Dupont J, Branca A, Giraud T (2015) Adaptive Horizontal Gene Transfers between Multiple Cheese-Associated Fungi. Current Biology, 25, 2562–2569.

[6] Dumas E, Feurtey A, Rodríguez de la Vega RC, Le Prieur S, Snirc A, Coton M, Thierry A, Coton E, Le Piver M, Roueyre D, Ropars J, Branca A, Giraud T (2020) Independent domestication events in the blue-cheese fungus Penicillium roqueforti. Molecular Ecology, 29, 2639–2660.

[7] Ropars J, Didiot E, Rodríguez de la Vega RC, Bennetot B, Coton M, Poirier E, Coton E, Snirc A, Le Prieur S, Giraud T (2020) Domestication of the Emblematic White Cheese-Making Fungus Penicillium camemberti and Its Diversification into Two Varieties. Current Biology, 30, 4441-4453.e4.

[8] Caron T, Piver ML, Péron A-C, Lieben P, Lavigne R, Brunel S, Roueyre D, Place M, Bonnarme P, Giraud T, Branca A, Landaud S, Chassard C (2021) Strong effect of Penicillium roqueforti populations on volatile and metabolic compounds responsible for aromas, flavor and texture in blue cheeses. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 354, 109174.

[9] Ropars J, Lo Y-C, Dumas E, Snirc A, Begerow D, Rollnik T, Lacoste S, Dupont J, Giraud T, López-Villavicencio M (2016) Fertility depression among cheese-making Penicillium roqueforti strains suggests degeneration during domestication. Evolution, 70, 2099–2109.

[10] Michel E, Masson E, Bubbendorf S, Lapicque L, Nidelet T, Segond D, Guézenec S, Marlin T, Devillers H, Rué O, Onno B, Legrand J, Sicard D, Bakers TP (2022) Artisanal and farmer bread making practices differently shape fungal species community composition in French sourdoughs. bioRxiv, 679472, ver. 6 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology.

[11] Vavilov NI, Vavylov MI, Dorofeev VF (1992) Origin and Geography of Cultivated Plants. Cambridge University Press.

[12] Saslis-Lagoudakis CH, Clarke AC (2013) Ethnobiology: the missing link in ecology and evolution. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 28, 67–68.

[13] Thomas M, Demeulenaere E, Dawson JC, Khan AR, Galic N, Jouanne-Pin S, Remoue C, Bonneuil C, Goldringer I (2012) On-farm dynamic management of genetic diversity: the impact of seed diffusions and seed saving practices on a population-variety of bread wheat. Evolutionary Applications, 5, 779–795.

[14] Demeulenaere É, Lagrola M (2021) Des indicateurs pour accompagner “ les éleveurs de microbes” : Une communauté épistémique face au problème des laits “ paucimicrobiens ” dans la production fromagère au lait cru (1995-2015). Revue d’anthropologie des connaissances, 15.

Artisanal and farmers bread making practices differently shape fungal species community composition in French sourdoughsElisa Michel, Estelle Masson, Sandrine Bubbendorf, Leocadie Lapicque, Thibault Nidelet, Diego Segond, Stephane Guezenec, Therese Marlin, Hugo deVillers, Olivier Rue, Bernard Onno, Judith Legrand, Delphine Sicard<p style="text-align: justify;">Preserving microbial diversity in food systems is one of the many challenges to be met to achieve food security and quality. Although industrialization led to the selection and spread of specific fermenting microbia...Adaptation, Evolutionary Applications, Evolutionary EcologyTatiana Giraud2022-01-27 14:53:08 View
03 Jun 2018
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Cost of resistance: an unreasonably expensive concept

Let’s move beyond costs of resistance!

Recommended by and based on reviews by Danna Gifford, Helen Alexander and 1 anonymous reviewer

The increase in the prevalence of (antibiotic) resistance has become a major global health concern and is an excellent example of the impact of real-time evolution on human society. This has led to a boom of studies that investigate the mechanisms and factors involved in the evolution of resistance, and to the spread of the concept of "costs of resistance". This concept refers to the relative fitness disadvantage of a drug-resistant genotype compared to a non-resistant reference genotype in the ancestral (untreated) environment.

In their paper, Lenormand et al. [1] discuss the history of this concept and highlight its caveats and limitations. The authors address both practical and theoretical problems that arise from the simplistic view of "costly resistance" and argue that they can be prejudicial for antibiotic resistance studies. For a better understanding, they visualize their points of critique by means of Fisher's Geometric model.

The authors give an interesting historical overview of how the concept arose and speculate that it emerged (during the 1980s) in an attempt by ecologists to spread awareness that fitness can be environment-dependent, and because of the concept's parallels to trade-offs in life-history evolution. They then identify several problems that arise from the concept, which, besides the conceptual misunderstandings that they can cause, are important to keep in mind when designing experimental studies.

The authors highlight and explain the following points:
1. Costs of resistance do not necessarily imply pleiotropic effects of a resistance mutation, and pleiotropy is not necessarily the cause of fitness trade-offs.
2. Any non-treated environment and any treatment dose can result in a different cost.
3. Different reference genotypes may result in different costs. Specifically, the reference genotype has to be "optimally" adapted to the reference environment to provide an accurate measurement of costs.

Lenormand et al.'s paper [1] is a timely perspective piece in light of the ever-increasing efforts to understand and tackle resistance evolution [2]. Although some readers may shy away from the rather theoretical presentation of the different points of concern, it will be useful for both theoretical and empirical readers by illustrating the misconceptions that can arise from the concept of the cost of resistance. Ultimately, the main lesson to be learned from this paper may not be to ban the term "cost of resistance" from one's vocabulary, but rather to realize that the successful fight against drug resistance requires more differential information than the measurement of fitness effects in a drug-treated vs. non-treated environment in the lab [3-4]. Specifically, a better integration of the ecological aspects of drug resistance evolution and maintenance is needed [5], and we are far from a general understanding of how environmental factors interact and influence an organism's (absolute and relative) fitness and the effect of resistance mutations.


[1] Lenormand T, Harmand N, Gallet R. 2018. Cost of resistance: an unreasonably expensive concept. bioRxiv 276675, ver. 3 peer-reviewed by Peer Community In Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.1101/276675
[2] Andersson DI and Hughes D. Persistence of antibiotic resistance in bacterial populations. 2011. FEMS Microbiology Reviews, 35: 901-911. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2011.00289.x
[3] Chevereau G, Dravecká M, Batur T, Guvenek A, Ayhan DH, Toprak E, Bollenbach T. 2015. Quantifying the determinants of evolutionary dynamics leading to drug resistance. PLoS biology 13, e1002299. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002299
[4] Bengtsson-Palme J, Kristiansson E, Larsson DGJ. 2018. Environmental factors influencing the development and spread of antibiotic resistance. FEMS Microbiology Reviews 42: 68–80. doi: 10.1093/femsre/fux053
[5] Hiltunen T, Virta M, Laine AL. 2017. Antibiotic resistance in the wild: an eco-evolutionary perspective. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 372: 20160039. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0039

Cost of resistance: an unreasonably expensive conceptThomas Lenormand, Noemie Harmand, Romain Gallet<p>The cost of resistance, or the fitness effect of resistance mutation in absence of the drug, is a very widepsread concept in evolutionary genetics and beyond. It has represented an important addition to the simplistic view that resistance mutat...Adaptation, Evolutionary Applications, Evolutionary Ecology, Evolutionary Theory, Experimental Evolution, Genotype-Phenotype, Population Genetics / GenomicsInês Fragata2018-03-09 02:22:07 View
13 Dec 2016
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Addicted? Reduced host resistance in populations with defensive symbionts

Hooked on Wolbachia

Recommended by and

This very nice paper by Martinez et al. [1] provides further evidence, if further evidence was needed, of the extent to which heritable microorganisms run the evolutionary show.
Wolbachia is an ubiquitous endosymbiont of arthropods who has been recently shown to protect its hosts against viral infections. Here, Martinez et al. are able to show that this multifaceted heritable symbiont weakens selective pressures induced by viruses on host immune genes. In a series of very elegant experiments, Wolbachia-infected and Wolbachia-free populations of D. melanogaster were exposed to Drosophila C virus (a natural, and highly virulent Drosophila pathogen). At the end of a 9-generation artificial selection protocol with DCV, resistance against DCV increased in flies, both in the presence and absence of Wolbachia. Wolbachia-infected flies were still substantially more resistant to DCV viruses than their Wolbachia-free counterparts. Crucially, however, the frequency of the pastrel resistant allele (a key immune gene for DCV resistance) was significantly lower in the Wolbachia-infected lines. As a consequence, when the DCV-evolved lines were treated with antibiotics to cure them from the bacterial infection, the lines who had evolved with Wolbachia tended to be more susceptible to the virus than their uninfected counterparts.
In other words, infection by protective heritable symbionts can affect how selection acts on the host's nuclear-based resistance, effectively rendering it dependent on its symbiont for the fight against pathogens.
But the interest of these results may not be simply academic. The protective qualities of Wolbachia against a range of pathogens have opened up the exciting possibility of transferring these bacteria to mosquito vectors of key human diseases such as dengue or malaria. The long term evolutionary potential for these novel Wolbachia-host interactions has, however, been little explored. Either the Wolbachia, the pathogen or, as shown here, the host, could evolve in more or less predictable ways. There is, for example, evidence showing that in novel hosts Wolbachia evolves rapidly and tends to gradually lose its virulence. If the lost virulence was to result in a decrease in their pathogen defensive qualities, the mosquito, having lost the efficiency of its conventional immune defences, could end up being more vulnerable to infection than before the Wolbachia introduction. Martinez et al.'s paper is a nice example of how investigating the evolutionary potential of such Wolbachia-host-pathogen interactions can be hugely informative as to the long term prospects of these new control methods.


[1] Martinez J, Cogni R, Cao C, Smith S, Illingworth CJR & Jiggins FM. 2016. Addicted? Reduced host resistance in populations with defensive symbionts. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 283:20160778. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0778

Addicted? Reduced host resistance in populations with defensive symbiontsMartinez J, Cogni R, Cao C, Smith S, Illingworth CJR & Jiggins FMHeritable symbionts that protect their hosts from pathogens have been described in a wide range of insect species. By reducing the incidence or severity of infection, these symbionts have the potential to reduce the strength of selection on genes ...Adaptation, Evolutionary Applications, Evolutionary Ecology, Experimental Evolution, Life HistoryAna Rivero2016-12-13 20:08:37 View
13 Nov 2017
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Epidemiological trade-off between intra- and interannual scales in the evolution of aggressiveness in a local plant pathogen population

The pace of pathogens’ adaptation to their host plants

Recommended by based on reviews by Benoit Moury and 1 anonymous reviewer

Because of their shorter generation times and larger census population sizes, pathogens are usually ahead in the evolutionary race with their hosts. The risks linked to pathogen adaptation are still exacerbated in agronomy, where plant and animal populations are not freely evolving but depend on breeders and growers, and are usually highly genetically homogeneous. As a consequence, the speed of pathogen adaptation is crucial for agriculture sustainability. Unraveling the time scale required for pathogens’ adaptation to their hosts would notably greatly improve our estimation of the risks of pathogen emergence, the efficiency of disease control strategies and the design of epidemiological surveillance schemes. However, the temporal scale of pathogen evolution has received much less attention than its spatial scale [1]. In their study of a wheat fungal disease, Suffert et al. [2] reached contrasting conclusions about the pathogen adaptation depending on the time scale (intra- or inter-annual) and on the host genotype (sympatric or allopatric) considered, questioning the experimental assessment of this important problem.

Suffert et al. [2] sampled two pairs of Zymoseptoria tritici (the causal agent of septoria leaf blotch) sub-populations in a bread wheat field plot, representing (i) isolates collected at the beginning or at the end of an epidemic in a single growing season (2009-2010 intra-annual sampling scale) and (ii) isolates collected from plant debris at the end of growing seasons in 2009 and in 2015 (inter-annual sampling scale). Then, they measured in controlled conditions two aggressiveness traits of the isolates of these four Z. tritici sub-populations, the latent period and the lesion size on leaves, on two wheat cultivars. One of the cultivars was considered as "sympatric" because it was at the source of the studied isolates and was predominant in the growing area before the experiment, whereas the other cultivar was considered as "allopatric" since it replaced the previous one and became predominant in the growing area during the sampling period.

On the sympatric host, at the intra-annual scale, they observed a marginally-significant decrease in latent period and a significant decrease of the between-isolate variance for this trait, which are consistent with a selection of pathogen variants with an enhanced aggressiveness. In contrast, at the inter-annual scale, no difference in the mean or variance of aggressiveness trait values was observed on the sympatric host, suggesting a lack of pathogen adaptation. They interpreted the contrast between observations at the two time scales as the consequence of a trade-off for the pathogen between a gain of aggressiveness after several generations of asexual reproduction at the intra-annual scale and a decrease of the probability to reproduce sexually and to be transmitted from one growing season to the next. Indeed, at the end of the growing season, the most aggressive isolates are located on the upper leaves of plants, where the pathogen density and hence probably also the probability to reproduce sexually, is lower. On the allopatric host, the conclusion about the pathogen stability at the inter-annual scale was somewhat different, since a significant increase in the mean lesion size was observed (isolates corresponding to the intra-annual scale were not checked on the allopatric host). This shows the possibility for the pathogen to evolve at the inter-annual scale, for a given aggressiveness trait and on a given host.

In conclusion, Suffert et al.’s [2] study emphasizes the importance of the experimental design in terms of sampling time scale and host genotype choice to analyze the pathogen adaptation to its host plants. It provides also an interesting scenario, at the crossroad of the pathogen’s reproduction regime, niche partitioning and epidemiological processes, to interpret these contrasted results. Pathogen adaptation to plant cultivars with major-effect resistance genes is usually fast, including in the wheat-Z. tritici system [3]. Therefore, this study will be of great help for future studies on pathogen adaptation to plant partial resistance genes and on strategies of deployment of such resistance at the landscape scale.

[1] Penczykowski RM, Laine A-L and Koskella B. 2016. Understanding the ecology and evolution of host–parasite interactions across scales. Evolutionary Applications, 9: 37–52. doi: 10.1111/eva.12294

[2] Suffert F, Goyeau H, Sache I, Carpentier F, Gelisse S, Morais D and Delestre G. 2017. Epidemiological trade-off between intra- and interannual scales in the evolution of aggressiveness in a local plant pathogen population. bioRxiv, 151068, ver. 3 of 12th November 2017. doi: 10.1101/151068

[3] Brown JKM, Chartrain L, Lasserre-Zuber P and Saintenac C. 2015. Genetics of resistance to Zymoseptoria tritici and applications to wheat breeding. Fungal Genetics and Biology, 79: 33–41. doi: 10.1016/j.fgb.2015.04.017

Epidemiological trade-off between intra- and interannual scales in the evolution of aggressiveness in a local plant pathogen populationFrederic Suffert, Henriette Goyeau, Ivan Sache, Florence Carpentier, Sandrine Gelisse, David Morais, Ghislain DelestreThe efficiency of plant resistance to fungal pathogen populations is expected to decrease over time, due to its evolution with an increase in the frequency of virulent or highly aggressive strains. This dynamics may differ depending on the scale i...Adaptation, Evolutionary Applications, Evolutionary EpidemiologyBenoit Moury2017-06-23 21:04:54 View
02 May 2023
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Durable resistance or efficient disease control? Adult Plant Resistance (APR) at the heart of the dilemma

Plant resistance to pathogens: just you wait?

Recommended by based on reviews by Jean-Paul Soularue and 1 anonymous reviewer

In this preprint, Rimbaud et al. (2023) examine whether Adult Plant Resistance (APR), where plants delay their response to pathogens, is a viable alternative when the solution to evolve complete resistance from the seedling stage exists. At first glance, delaying resistance seems like a counter-intuitive strategy, unless it can result in a weaker selection of the pathogen, and therefore slow down its adaption to plant resistance.

The approach of Rimbaud et al. is to incorporate as much of the mechanisms as possible into a model. By accounting for explicit spatio-temporal dynamics, stochasticity, and the coupling between demography and population genetics, to simulate an agricultural landscape, they reach a nuanced conclusion.

Weaker and delayed activation of genes that confer APR does indeed reduce the selection pressure acting on the pathogen, at the cost of overall less effective protection. The alternative strategy of rapid or complete activation of these genes, although it results in better results in defending against the pathogen, is at risk of being overcome because it introduces a stronger selection pressure.

One important feature of this work is that it accounts for agricultural practices. The landscape that is simulated can account for monoculture, mosaic cultures, mixed cultures, and rotations of crops (with different strategies for resistance). This introduces an interesting element to the conclusion: that human practices will have an impact on the selection pressures acting within the system.

Perhaps the most striking result is that, for the plants, it might be more beneficial to bear the cost of a wild-type pathogen that can benefit from delayed activation of resistance, and therefore exclude the more virulent strains by simply being there first, and essentially buying the plant some time before it activates its resistance more completely. When the landscape is aggregated, even wild-type pathogens can cause severe epidemics; increasing fragmentation, because it enables connectivity between patches of plants with different strategies, allows pathogens to move across cultivars, and reduces the epidemic risk on susceptible plants.

These results should encourage scaling up the perspective on APR, and indeed Rimbaud et al. adopt a landscape-scale perspective, to show that APR genes and genes conferring more complete resistance early on can have synergistic effects. This is, again, both an interesting result for evolutionary biologists, but also a useful way to prioritize different crop management strategies over large spatial scales.


Rimbaud, Loup, et al. Durable Resistance or Efficient Disease Control? Adult Plant Resistance (APR) at the Heart of the Dilemma. 2023. bioRxiv, ver. 2 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology.

Durable resistance or efficient disease control? Adult Plant Resistance (APR) at the heart of the dilemmaLoup Rimbaud, Julien Papaïx, Jean-François Rey, Benoît Moury, Luke G. Barrett, Peter H. Thrall<p style="text-align: justify;">Adult plant resistance (APR) is an incomplete and delayed protection of plants against pathogens. At first glance, such resistance should be less efficient than classical major-effect resistance genes, which confer ...Adaptation, Evolutionary Applications, Evolutionary EpidemiologyTimothée Poisot2022-09-02 16:36:32 View