Evolutionary arms race
The evolution of disease resistance can vary from one population to the next, especially where the disease-causing organism (for example a virus) shows genetic variation. Such a phenomenon can lead to an 'arms race' with the evolution of resistance in host organisms responding to ongoing changes in the virulence of disease organisms.
NERC scientists investigated whether natural populations of the wild relative of the cabbage respond differently to attack by a virus (turnip mosaic virus) depending on whether it came from the local area or from some distance away. If they did, what genes in the plants are responsible for such differences?
Researchers used plants and local viruses from two well-separated coastal regions of Britain. The team found that local populations with their associated strains of virus have evolved to have different characteristics from those in distant populations. Introducing the disease from one population to another results in different levels of infection and host response, and different gene expressions were identified.
The scientists identified hundreds of genes that were responding to virus attack, and the next step is to look for patterns that may enable them to identify which are the key genes involved.