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Mixed infections alter transmission potential in a fungal plant pathogen

Barrett, L. G., Zala, M., Mikaberidze, A., Alassimone, J., Ahmad, M., McDonald, B. A. and Sánchez‐Vallet, A. ORCID: (2021) Mixed infections alter transmission potential in a fungal plant pathogen. Environmental Microbiology, 23 (4). pp. 2315-2330. ISSN 1462-2912

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.15417


Infections by more than one strain of a pathogen predominate under natural conditions. Mixed infections can have significant, though often unpredictable, consequences for overall virulence, pathogen transmission and evolution. However, effects of mixed infection on disease development in plants often remain unclear and the critical factors that determine the outcome of mixed infections remain unknown. The fungus Zymoseptoria tritici forms genetically diverse infections in wheat fields. Here, for a range of pathogen traits, we experimentally decompose the infection process to determine how the outcomes and consequences of mixed infections are mechanistically realized. Different strains of Z. tritici grow in close proximity and compete in the wheat apoplast, resulting in reductions in growth of individual strains and in pathogen reproduction. We observed different outcomes of competition at different stages of the infection. Overall, more virulent strains had higher competitive ability during host colonization, and less virulent strains had higher transmission potential. We showed that within‐host competition can have a major effect on infection dynamics and pathogen population structure in a pathogen and host genotype‐specific manner. Consequently, mixed infections likely have a major effect on the development of septoria tritici blotch epidemics and the evolution of virulence in Z. tritici.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Crop Science
ID Code:96692


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