Cucumber mosaic virus as a potential selective pressure on Arabidopsis thaliana populations

It has been proposed that in wild ecosystems viruses are often plant mutualists, whereas agroecosystems favour pathogenicity. We seek evidence for virus pathogenicity in wild ecosystems through the analysis of plant-virus coevolution, which requires a negative effect of infection on the host fitness. Plant-virus coevolution has not been demonstrated yet in any wild system.


We analyse here if viruses are virulent pathogens of plants in wild ecosystems and, consequently, plants have evolved defences against virus infection. To test this hypothesis, we studied the genetic diversity of Arabidopsis thaliana for two defence traits, resistance and tolerance, to Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) at a regional scale in the Iberian Peninsula. Resistance and tolerance to CMV showed substantial genetic variation within and between host populations, and depended on the virus x host genotype interaction, two conditions for coevolution. Resistance and tolerance were independent traits that co-occurred at the population and regional scales, and that have evolved independently from other adaptive life-history traits. Analyses also indicated that resistance and tolerance are likely under selection, most likely due to virus infection. These results support a hypothesis of plant-virus coevolution and contribute to demonstrate that plant viruses may be virulent parasites of plants in in wild ecosystems.

Plants assayed for defence to CMV infection.

Original Paper:

Montes, N., Alonso-Blanco, C., García-Arenal, F. 2019. Cucumber mosaic virus infection as a potential selective pressure on Arabidopsis thaliana populations. PLOS Pathogens 15, e1007810. DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007810