Apomictic, polyphagous root-knot nematodes: exceptionally successful and damaging biotrophic root pathogens

Annu Rev Phytopathol. 2001;39:53-77. doi: 10.1146/annurev.phyto.39.1.53.


Most apomictic root-knot nematodes (RKN; Meloidogyne spp.) have host ranges that encompass the majority of flowering plants, and M. incognita is possibly the world's most damaging crop pathogen. The ancestors, age, and origins of the polyphagous RKN are obscure, but there is increasing evidence that M. incognita, M. javanica, and M. arenaria are closely related, heterogeneous species with a recent, hybrid (reticulate) origin. If so, they must owe much of their current worldwide distributions to spread by agriculture. Host resistance appears to be generally durable in the field, but laboratory studies suggest that apomixis does not prevent evolution in response to selection by a parasitic bacterium (Pasteuria penetrans) and host resistance. Maintaining general fitness may be the evolutionary priority for most populations of polyphagous RKN, and a wide host range, important in the field but not in the laboratory, may be conserved by apomixis. Several factors may help confer a wide host range, including suppression of host resistance, perhaps as a consequence of the strength of the induced susceptible response. Resistance genes effective against RKN appear not to have resulted from coevolution. Rates of juvenile invasion and/or development are low in many wild and some crop plants, with the result that they are both poor hosts and sustain less damage. Overall, it is suggested that greater coordination, particularly of fundamental research, is required.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics*
  • Mitosis
  • Parthenogenesis / genetics*
  • Plant Diseases / genetics
  • Plant Diseases / parasitology
  • Plant Roots / genetics
  • Plant Roots / immunology
  • Plant Roots / metabolism
  • Plant Roots / parasitology
  • Reproduction, Asexual
  • Tylenchoidea / genetics*
  • Tylenchoidea / metabolism