Dynamics of multiple infection and within-host competition by the anther-smut pathogen

Am Nat. 2003 Jul;162(1):122-33. doi: 10.1086/375539. Epub 2003 Jun 27.


Infection of one host by multiple pathogen genotypes represents an important area of pathogen ecology and evolution that lacks a broad empirical foundation. Multiple infection of Silene latifolia by Microbotryum violaceum was studied under field and greenhouse conditions using the natural polymorphism for mating-type bias as a marker. Field transmission resulted in frequent multiple infection, and each stem of the host was infected independently. Within-host diversity of infections equaled that of nearby inoculum sources by the end of the growing season. The number of diseased stems per plant was positively correlated with multiple infection and with overwintering mortality. As a result, multiply infected plants were largely purged from the population, and there was lower within-host pathogen diversity in the second season. However, among plants with a given number of diseased stems, multiply infected plants had a lower risk of overwintering mortality. Following simultaneous and sequential inoculation, strong competitive exclusion was demonstrated, and the first infection had a significant advantage. Dynamics of multiple infection initially included components of coinfection models for virulence evolution and then components of superinfection models after systemic colonization. Furthermore, there was evidence for an advantage of genotypes with mating-type bias, which may contribute to maintenance of this polymorphism in natural populations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Basidiomycota / pathogenicity*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Genetic Variation
  • Population Dynamics
  • Silene / microbiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Virulence