Sympatric genetic differentiation of a generalist pathogenic fungus, Botrytis cinerea, on two different host plants, grapevine and bramble


Elisabeth Fournier, UMR 1290 Bioger-CPP, Bâtiment 4, INRA Centre de Versailles, Route de Saint-Cyr, F-78026 Versailles cedex, France.


Prime candidates for sympatric ecological divergence include parasites that differentiate via host shifts, because different host species exert strong disruptive selection and because both hosts and parasites are continually co-evolving. Sympatric divergence may be fostered even more strongly in phytopathogenic fungi, in particular those where sex must occur on the host, which allows adaptation alone to restrict gene flow between populations developing on different hosts. We sampled populations of Botrytis cinerea, a generalist ascomycete fungus, on sympatric grapes and brambles in six regions in France. Microsatellite data were analyzed using standard population genetics, a population graph analysis and a Bayesian approach. In addition to confirming that B. cinerea reproduces sexually, our results showed that the fungal populations on the two hosts were significantly differentiated, indicating restricted gene flow, even in sympatry. In contrast, only weak geographical differentiation could be detected. These results support the possibility of sympatric divergence associated with host use in generalist parasites.