Dissecting the genetic architecture of a stepwise infection process

Matthew D. Hall, Jarkko Routtu, Dieter Ebert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

How a host fights infection depends on an ordered sequence of steps, beginning with attempts to prevent a pathogen from establishing an infection, through to steps that mitigate a pathogen's control of host resources or minimize the damage caused during infection. Yet empirically characterizing the genetic basis of these steps remains challenging. Although each step is likely to have a unique genetic and environmental signature, and may therefore respond to selection in different ways, events that occur earlier in the infection process can mask or overwhelm the contributions of subsequent steps. In this study, we dissect the genetic architecture of a stepwise infection process using a quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping approach. We control for variation at the first line of defence against a bacterial pathogen and expose downstream genetic variability related to the host's ability to mitigate the damage pathogens cause. In our model, the water-flea Daphnia magna, we found a single major effect QTL, explaining 64% of the variance, that is linked to the host's ability to completely block pathogen entry by preventing their attachment to the host oesophagus; this is consistent with the detection of this locus in previous studies. In susceptible hosts allowing attachment, however, a further 23 QTLs, explaining between 5% and 16% of the variance, were mapped to traits related to the expression of disease. The general lack of pleiotropy and epistasis for traits related to the different stages of the infection process, together with the wide distribution of QTLs across the genome, highlights the modular nature of a host's defence portfolio, and the potential for each different step to evolve independently. We discuss how isolating the genetic basis of individual steps can help to resolve discussion over the genetic architecture of host resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3942-3957
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Ecology
Volume28
Issue number17
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019

Keywords

  • Pasteuria ramosa
  • defence cascade
  • genetic architecture
  • host-pathogen interactions
  • infectious disease
  • resistance
  • virulence

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