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An Analysis of the Durability of Resistance to Plant Viruses

August 2003 , Volume 93 , Number  8
Pages  941 - 952

Fernando García-Arenal and Bruce A. McDonald

First author: Departamento de Biotecnología, E.T.S. Ingenieros Agrónomos, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, E-28040 Madrid, Spain; and second author: Institute of Plant Sciences, Phytopathology Group, ETH Zentrum/LFW, Universitätstrasse 2, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland

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Accepted for publication 5 March 2003.

Genetic resistance often fails because a resistance-breaking (RB) pathogen genotype increases in frequency. On the basis of an analysis of cellular plant pathogens, it was recently proposed that the evolutionary potential of a pathogen is a major determinant of the durability of resistance. We test this hypothesis for plant viruses, which differ substantially from cellular pathogens in the nature, size, and expression of their genomes. Our analysis was based on 29 plant virus species that provide a good representation of the genetic and biological diversity of plant viruses. These 29 viruses were involved in 35 pathosystems, and 50 resistance factors deployed against them were analyzed. Resistance was found to be durable more often than not, in contrast with resistance to cellular plant pathogens. In a third of the analyzed pathosystems RB strains have not been reported, and in another third RB strains have been reported but have not become prevalent in the virus population. The evolutionary potential of the viruses in the 35 pathosystems was evaluated with a compound risk index based on three evolutionary factors: the population of the pathogen, the degree of recombination, and the amount of gene and genotype flow. Our analysis indicates that evolutionary potential may be an important determinant of the durability of resistance against plant viruses.

© 2003 The American Phytopathological Society