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PLoS Pathog. 2010 Dec 16;6(12):e1001229. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1001229.

Glacial refugia in pathogens: European genetic structure of anther smut pathogens on Silene latifolia and Silene dioica.

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Université Paris-Sud, Laboratoire Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, UMR 8079, Orsay, France.


Climate warming is predicted to increase the frequency of invasions by pathogens and to cause the large-scale redistribution of native host species, with dramatic consequences on the health of domesticated and wild populations of plants and animals. The study of historic range shifts in response to climate change, such as during interglacial cycles, can help in the prediction of the routes and dynamics of infectious diseases during the impending ecosystem changes. Here we studied the population structure in Europe of two Microbotryum species causing anther smut disease on the plants Silene latifolia and Silene dioica. Clustering analyses revealed the existence of genetically distinct groups for the pathogen on S. latifolia, providing a clear-cut example of European phylogeography reflecting recolonization from southern refugia after glaciation. The pathogen genetic structure was congruent with the genetic structure of its host species S. latifolia, suggesting dependence of the migration pathway of the anther smut fungus on its host. The fungus, however, appeared to have persisted in more numerous and smaller refugia than its host and to have experienced fewer events of large-scale dispersal. The anther smut pathogen on S. dioica also showed a strong phylogeographic structure that might be related to more northern glacial refugia. Differences in host ecology probably played a role in these differences in the pathogen population structure. Very high selfing rates were inferred in both fungal species, explaining the low levels of admixture between the genetic clusters. The systems studied here indicate that migration patterns caused by climate change can be expected to include pathogen invasions that follow the redistribution of their host species at continental scales, but also that the recolonization by pathogens is not simply a mirror of their hosts, even for obligate biotrophs, and that the ecology of hosts and pathogen mating systems likely affects recolonization patterns.

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