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Oecologia. 2007 May;152(1):71-81. Epub 2006 Dec 16.

Fitness consequences of infection of Arabidopsis thaliana with its natural bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas viridiflava.

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Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, 1101 E. 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Variation in plant resistance to pathogen infection is commonly observed in interactions between wild plants and their foliar pathogens. Models of host-pathogen interactions indicate that a large cost of infection is generally necessary to maintain this variation, yet there is limited evidence that foliar pathogens cause detectable fitness reductions in wild host plants. Most published work has focused on fungal pathogens. Pseudomonas viridiflava, a common bacterial pathogen of the annual weed Arabidopsis thaliana across its range, comprises two distinct genetic clades that cause disease symptoms of different severity. Here we measured the extent of infection of wild A. thaliana populations in the Midwest, USA, and examined the effect on seed production, in field and growth-chamber experiments, of experimental inoculation with isolates from the two clades. We found infection with P. viridiflava varied from 0 to 56% in Midwest A. thaliana populations, with the possibility of several leaves per plant infected later in the growing season. In the growth chambers, experimental inoculation reduced seed set by averages of 15 and 11% for clades A and B, respectively. In the field experiment, only clade A affected plant fitness significantly, reducing seed set by an average of 38%. Underlying these average effects we observed both negative and positive effects of infection, and variation in both fitness among plant genotypes and sensitivity to environmental conditions.

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