University of Cambridge > > Plant Sciences Departmental Seminars > Population structure and evolution of virulence in plant viruses

Population structure and evolution of virulence in plant viruses

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Virulence, defined as the negative effect of pathogens in the fitness of their hosts is the key property of pathogens. Virulence can be a selectable trait, and much effort has been made for the formal understanding of virulence evolution. Most models assume that virulence is an unavoidable trait of the within host multiplication of pathogens, and that there are trade-offs between virulence and horizontal transmission. Experimental support for these assumptions does not abound and evidence from plant viruses is lacking. Results from experiments aimed at testing these hypotheses will be presented, showing no relation between virus accumulation or mode of transmission and virulence. Also, virulence evolution may be affected by the host range of the pathogen. We have also explored the nature of generalism and whether host adaptation occurs in generalist plant viruses. Genetic exchange by recombination or reassortment of genomic segments is an important process in virus evolution, resulting often in dramatic changes in virulence and host range, and in the emergence of new viral diseases. Little is known about what factors affect the frequency of the resulting new genotypes in virus populations. Experimental analyses of these factors will be presented, showing evidence for constraints to genetic exchange and supporting co-adaptation of gene complexes will also be presented.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Departmental Seminars series.

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