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Host genotype and genetic diversity shape the evolution of a novel bacterial infection

Citation

Ekroth, Alice; King, Kayla (2021), Host genotype and genetic diversity shape the evolution of a novel bacterial infection , Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.w0vt4b8q4

Abstract

Pathogens continue to emerge from increased contact with novel host species. Whilst these hosts can represent distinct environments for pathogens, the impacts of host genetic background on how a pathogen evolves post-emergence are unclear. In a novel interaction, we experimentally evolved a pathogen (Staphylococcus aureus) in populations of wild nematodes (Caenorhabditis elegans) to test whether host genotype and genetic diversity affect pathogen evolution. After 10 rounds of selection, we found that pathogen virulence evolved to vary across host genotypes, with differences in host metal ion acquisition detected as a possible driver of increased host exploitation. Diverse host populations selected for the highest levels of pathogen virulence, but infectivity was constrained, unlike in host monocultures. We hypothesize that population heterogeneity might pool together individuals that contribute disproportionately to the spread of infection or to enhanced virulence. The genomes of evolved populations were sequenced, and it was revealed that pathogens selected in distantly-related host genotypes diverged more than those in closely-related host genotypes. S. aureus nevertheless maintained a broad host range. Our study provides unique empirical insight into the evolutionary dynamics that could occur in other novel infections of wildlife and humans.