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Evolution. 2010 May;64(5):1446-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2009.00913.x. Epub 2009 Nov 26.

Intergenomic epistasis and coevolutionary constraint in plants and rhizobia.

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  • Department of Plant Biology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA. kheath@illinois.edu


Studying how the fitness benefits of mutualism differ among a wide range of partner genotypes, and at multiple spatial scales, can shed light on the processes that maintain mutualism and structure coevolutionary interactions. Using legumes and rhizobia from three natural populations, I studied the symbiotic fitness benefits for both partners in 108 plant maternal family by rhizobium strain combinations. Genotype-by-genotype (G x G) interactions among local genotypes and among partner populations determined, in part, the benefits of mutualism for both partners; for example, the fitness effects of particular rhizobium strains ranged from uncooperative to mutualistic depending on the plant family. Correlations between plant and rhizobium fitness benefits suggest a trade off, and therefore a potential conflict, between the interests of the two partners. These results suggest that legume-rhizobium mutualisms are dynamic at multiple spatial scales, and that strictly additive models of mutualism benefits may ignore dynamics potentially important to both the maintenance of genetic variation and the generation of geographic patterns in coevolutionary interactions.

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