The influence of genetic drift and selection on quantitative traits in a plant pathogenic fungus.

PLoS One 2014 10;9(11):e112523. Epub 2014 Nov 10.

Evolutionary Botany, Institute of Biology, University of Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Genetic drift and selection are ubiquitous evolutionary forces acting to shape genetic variation in populations. While their relative importance has been well studied in plants and animals, less is known about their relative importance in fungal pathogens. Because agro-ecosystems are more homogeneous environments than natural ecosystems, stabilizing selection may play a stronger role than genetic drift or diversifying selection in shaping genetic variation among populations of fungal pathogens in agro-ecosystems. We tested this hypothesis by conducting a QST/FST analysis using agricultural populations of the barley pathogen Rhynchosporium commune. Population divergence for eight quantitative traits (QST) was compared with divergence at eight neutral microsatellite loci (FST) for 126 pathogen strains originating from nine globally distributed field populations to infer the effects of genetic drift and types of selection acting on each trait. Our analyses indicated that five of the eight traits had QST values significantly lower than FST, consistent with stabilizing selection, whereas one trait, growth under heat stress (22°C), showed evidence of diversifying selection and local adaptation (QST>FST). Estimates of heritability were high for all traits (means ranging between 0.55-0.84), and average heritability across traits was negatively correlated with microsatellite gene diversity. Some trait pairs were genetically correlated and there was significant evidence for a trade-off between spore size and spore number, and between melanization and growth under benign temperature. Our findings indicate that many ecologically and agriculturally important traits are under stabilizing selection in R. commune and that high within-population genetic variation is maintained for these traits.

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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0112523PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4226542PMC
December 2015
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