Chemical treatments are used widely in agricultural and natural settings to protect plants from diseases; however, they may exert an important selection pressure on plant pathogens, promoting the development of tolerant isolates through adaptive evolution. Phosphite is used to manage diseases caused by Phytophthora species which include a large number of the most economically damaging plant pathogens worldwide. Phosphite controls the growth of Phytophthora species in planta without killing it; as a result, isolates can develop tolerance to phosphite after prolonged exposure. We investigated the inter- and intra-spe-cific variability in phosphite tolerance of eleven Phytophthora species, including P. ramorum, an internationally important, highly regulated pathogen. Phytophthora ramorum is a good model system because it is comprised of multiple genetically homogeneous lineages. Seven species were found to be consistently sensitive to phosphite based on the low Effective Concentration (EC) 50 values of all isolates tested (amount of phosphite required to inhibit mycelial growth by 50% relative to growth in the absence of phosphite). However, P. ramorum, P. lateralis, P. crassamura and P. cambivora showed intraspecific variability in sensitivity to phosphite, with at least one isolate showing significantly higher tolerance than the other isolates. Within the three P. ramorum evolutionarily divergent lineages tested, NA1 was the most susceptible to phosphite, the NA1 and EU1 lineages showed intralineage variability and the NA2 lineage showed a decreased sensitivity to phosphite overall as all isolates were relatively tolerant. This finding is relevant because NA1 is dominant in the wild and can be controlled using phosphite, while the EU1 lineage has recently been identified in the wild and is phosphite-tolerant, making the treatment approach potentially less effective. Phytophthora ramorum, P. lateralis and P. crassamura are either selfing, homothallic species, or are known to reproduce exclusively clonally, indicating tolerance to phosphite can emerge even in the absence of sexual recombination.
Hunter, S., Williams, N., McDougal, R., Scott, P., & Garbelotto, M. (2018). Evidence for rapid adaptive evolution of tolerance to chemical treatments in Phytophthora species and its practical implications. PLoS ONE, 13(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0208961