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Keywords:

  • co-evolution;
  • disease emergence;
  • host-tracking;
  • isolation-with-migration;
  • Malus;
  • wild apples

Abstract

Evaluating the impact of plant domestication on the population structure of the associated pathogens provides an opportunity to increase our understanding of how and why diseases emerge. Here, we investigated the evolution of the population structure of the apple scab fungus Venturia inaequalis in response to the domestication of its host. Inferences were drawn from multilocus microsatellite data obtained from samples collected on (i) the Central Asian Malus sieversii, the main progenitor of apple, (ii) the European crabapple, Malus sylvestris, a secondary progenitor of apple, and (iii) the cultivated apple, Malus×domestica, in orchards from Europe and Central Asia. Using clustering methods, we identified three distinct populations: (i) a large European population on domesticated and wild apples, (ii) a large Central Asian population on domesticated and wild apples in urban and agricultural areas, and (iii) a more geographically restricted population in M. sieversii forests growing in the eastern mountains of Kazakhstan. Unique allele richness and divergence time estimates supported a host-tracking co-evolutionary scenario in which this latter population represents a relict of the ancestral populations from which current populations found in human-managed habitats were derived. Our analyses indicated that the domestication of apple induced a significant change in the genetic differentiation of populations of V. inaequalis in its centre of origin, but had little impact on its population dynamics and mating system. We discuss how the structure of the apple-based agrosystem may have restricted changes in the population structure of the fungus in response to the domestication of its host.