The potential of plant viruses to promote genotypic diversity via genotype x environment interactions

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Tamara van Mölken, Josef F. Stuefer

† Background and Aims Genotype by environment (G × E) interactions are important for the long-term persistence
of plant species in heterogeneous environments. It has often been suggested that disease is a key factor for
the maintenance of genotypic diversity in plant populations. However, empirical evidence for this contention is
scarce. Here virus infection is proposed as a possible candidate for maintaining genotypic diversity in their host
plants.
† Methods The effects of White clover mosaic virus (WClMV) on the performance and development of different
Trifolium repens genotypes were analysed and the G × E interactions were examined with respect to genotypespecific
plant responses to WClMV infection. Thus, the environment is defined as the presence or absence of the
virus.
† Key Results WClMV had a negative effect on plant performance as shown by a decrease in biomass and number
of ramets. These effects of virus infection differ greatly among host genotypes, representing a strong G × E interaction.
Moreover, the relative fitness and associated ranking of genotypes changed significantly between control
and virus treatments. This shift in relative fitness among genotypes suggests the potential for WClMV to provoke
differential selection on T. repens genotypes, which may lead to negative frequency-dependent selection in host
populations.
†Conclusions The apparent G × E interaction and evident repercussions for relative fitness reported in this study
stress the importance of viruses for ecological and evolutionary processes and suggest an important role for
viruses in shaping population dynamics and micro-evolutionary processes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Botany
Volume107
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)1391-1397
Number of pages7
ISSN0305-7364
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

ID: 35231583