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Proc Biol Sci. 2012 Aug 22;279(1741):3176-83. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.0509. Epub 2012 May 16.

Disentangling the influence of parasite genotype, host genotype and maternal environment on different stages of bacterial infection in Daphnia magna.

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Zoologisches Institut, Evolutionsbiologie, University of Basel, Basel 4051, Switzerland.


Individuals naturally vary in the severity of infectious disease when exposed to a parasite. Dissecting this variation into genetic and environmental components can reveal whether or not this variation depends on the host genotype, parasite genotype or a range of environmental conditions. Complicating this task, however, is that the symptoms of disease result from the combined effect of a series of events, from the initial encounter between a host and parasite, through to the activation of the host immune system and the exploitation of host resources. Here, we use the crustacean Daphnia magna and its parasite Pasteuria ramosa to show how disentangling genetic and environmental factors at different stages of infection improves our understanding of the processes shaping infectious disease. Using compatible host-parasite combinations, we experimentally exclude variation in the ability of a parasite to penetrate the host, from measures of parasite clearance, the reduction in host fecundity and the proliferation of the parasite. We show how parasite resistance consists of two components that vary in environmental sensitivity, how the maternal environment influences all measured aspects of the within-host infection process and how host-parasite interactions following the penetration of the parasite into the host have a distinct temporal component.

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