Context-dependent effects of induced resistance under co-infection in a plant–pathogen interaction

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The ability of a parasite strain to establish and grow on its host may be drastically altered by simultaneous infection by other parasite strains, and dynamics under multiple infection have been suggested to be a major force driving pathogen evolution. Here, I studied whether hosts’ induced defenses mediate dynamics of multiple infection of the fungal pathogen, Podosphaera plantaginis, infecting Plantago lanceolata. A laboratory study of sequential infections, where interaction between pathogen strains was prevented, showed that ability to establish remained unaffected, but prior infection elevates the host's resistance to the degree that subsequent infection development is significantly reduced. However, when inoculated plants and their healthy controls were planted back into their natural populations, hosts with prior infection became more heavily infected by the subsequent infections than the initially healthy plants. Hence, a controlled short-term laboratory study is a poor predictor of the host's ability to mediate multiple infection during the course of natural epidemics. These results have applied implications for priming where the plants’ defenses are elicited to provide protection against further attack, highlighting the importance of testing priming under natural conditions for relevant time scales.

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