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PLoS One. 2013 Dec 27;8(12):e84437. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084437. eCollection 2013.

Testing the 'hybrid susceptibility' and 'phenological sink' hypotheses using the P. balsamifera - P. deltoides hybrid zone and septoria leaf spot [Septoria musiva].

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Department of Plant Pathology, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota, United States of America.
Laurentian Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada, Sainte-Foy, Québec, Canada.
Lethbridge Research Center, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada ; Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc., Boyle, Alberta, Canada.


Hybrid genotypes that arise between plant species frequently have increased susceptibility to arthropod pests and fungal pathogens. This pattern has been attributed to the breakdown of plant defenses ('Hybrid susceptibility' hypothesis) and (or) to extended periods of susceptibility attributed to plant phenologies in zones of species overlap and (or) hybridization ('phenological sink' hypothesis). We examined these hypotheses by assessing the susceptibility of parental and hybrid Populus host genotypes to a leaf spot disease caused by the fungal pathogen Septoria musiva. For this purpose, 214 genotypes were obtained from morphologically pure zones of P. balsamifera and P. deltoides, and from an intervening zone of overlap and hybridization on the drainage of the Red Deer River, Alberta, Canada. Genotypes were identified as P. balsamifera, P. deltoides, or hybrid using a suite of 27 species-specific SNP markers. Initially the genetic structure of the hybrid zone was characterized with 27.7% of trees classified as admixed individuals. To test the hybrid susceptibility hypothesis, a subset of 52 genotypes was inoculated with four isolates of S. musiva. Levels of susceptibility were P. balsamifera > F1 hybrid > P. deltoides. A further 53 genotypes were grown in a common garden to assess the effect of genotype on variation in leaf phenology. Leaf phenology was more variable within the category of hybrid genotypes than within categories of either parental species. Leaf phenology was also more variable for the category of trees originating in the hybrid (P. balsamifera - P. deltoides [hybrid and parental genotypes combined]) zone than in adjacent pure zones of the parental species. The results from the inoculation experiment support the hybrid intermediacy hypothesis. The results from the common garden experiment support the 'phenological sink' hypothesis. These findings have greatly increased our understanding of the epidemiology and ecology of fungal pathogens in plant hybrid zones.

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