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Front Plant Sci. 2015 Sep 23;6:761. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2015.00761. eCollection 2015.

Specialization for resistance in wild host-pathogen interaction networks.

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Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization Agriculture Flagship Canberra, ACT, Australia.
Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization Canberra, ACT, Australia.


Properties encompassed by host-pathogen interaction networks have potential to give valuable insight into the evolution of specialization and coevolutionary dynamics in host-pathogen interactions. However, network approaches have been rarely utilized in previous studies of host and pathogen phenotypic variation. Here we applied quantitative analyses to eight networks derived from spatially and temporally segregated host (Linum marginale) and pathogen (Melampsora lini) populations. First, we found that resistance strategies are highly variable within and among networks, corresponding to a spectrum of specialist and generalist resistance types being maintained within all networks. At the individual level, specialization was strongly linked to partial resistance, such that partial resistance was effective against a greater number of pathogens compared to full resistance. Second, we found that all networks were significantly nested. There was little support for the hypothesis that temporal evolutionary dynamics may lead to the development of nestedness in host-pathogen infection networks. Rather, the common patterns observed in terms of nestedness suggests a universal driver (or multiple drivers) that may be independent of spatial and temporal structure. Third, we found that resistance networks were significantly modular in two spatial networks, clearly reflecting spatial and ecological structure within one of the networks. We conclude that (1) overall patterns of specialization in the networks we studied mirror evolutionary trade-offs with the strength of resistance; (2) that specific network architecture can emerge under different evolutionary scenarios; and (3) network approaches offer great utility as a tool for probing the evolutionary and ecological genetics of host-pathogen interactions.


avirulence; bipartite; generalist; rust; spatial; specialist; temporal; virulence

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