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High virulence does not necessarily impede viral adaptation to a new host: a case study using a plant RNA virus

Abstract : Theory suggests that high virulence could hinder between-host transmission of microparasites, and that virulence therefore will evolve to lower levels. Alternatively, highly virulent microparasites could also curtail host development, thereby limiting both the host resources available to them and their own within-host effective population size. In this case, high virulence might restrain the mutation supply rate and increase the strength with which genetic drift acts on microparasite populations. Thereby, this alternative explanation limits the microparasites’ potential to adapt to the host and ultimately the ability to evolve lower virulence. As a first exploration of this hypothesis, we evolved Tobacco etch virus carrying an eGFP fluorescent marker in two semi-permissive host species, Nicotiana benthamiana and Datura stramonium, for which it has a large difference in virulence. We compared the results to those previously obtained in the natural host, Nicotiana tabacum, where we have shown that carriage of eGFP has a high fitness cost and its loss serves as a real-time indicator of adaptation.
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Anouk Willemsen, Mark Zwart, Santiago Elena. High virulence does not necessarily impede viral adaptation to a new host: a case study using a plant RNA virus. BMC Evolutionary Biology, BioMed Central, 2017, 17 (1), ⟨10.1186/s12862-017-0881-7⟩. ⟨hal-01942755⟩

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