The dynamics of host susceptibility to parasites are often influenced by trade-offs between the costs and benefits of resistance. We assayed changes in the resistance to three viruses in six lines of Escherichia coli that had been evolving for almost 45,000 generations in their absence. The common ancestor of these lines was completely resistant to T6, partially resistant to T6* (a mutant of T6 with altered host range), and sensitive to λ. None of the populations changed with respect to resistance to T6, whereas all six evolved increased susceptibility to T6*, probably ameliorating a cost of resistance. More surprisingly, however, the majority of lines evolved complete resistance to λ, despite not encountering that virus during this period. By coupling our results with previous work, we infer that resistance to λ evolved as a pleiotropic effect of a beneficial mutation that downregulated an unused metabolic pathway. The strong parallelism between the lines implies that selection had almost deterministic effects on the evolution of these patterns of host resistance. The opposite outcomes for resistance to T6* and λ demonstrate that the evolution of host resistance under relaxed selection cannot be fully predicted by simple trade-off models.
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal compilation © 2010 The Society for the Study of Evolution.