Resistance genes (R-genes) act as an immune system in plants by recognizing pathogens and inducing defensive pathways. Many R-gene loci are present in plant genomes, presumably reflecting the need to maintain a large repertoire of resistance alleles. These loci also often segregate for resistance and susceptibility alleles that natural selection has maintained as polymorphisms within a species for millions of years1,2,3,4,5. Given the obvious advantage to an individual of being disease resistant, what prevents these resistance alleles from being driven to fixation by natural selection? A cost of resistance6 is one potential explanation; most models require a lower fitness of resistant individuals in the absence of pathogens for long-term persistence of susceptibility alleles7. Here we test for the presence of a cost of resistance at the RPM1 locus of Arabidopsis thaliana. Results of a field experiment comparing the fitness of isogenic strains that differ in the presence or absence of RPM1 and its natural promoter reveal a large cost of RPM1, providing the first evidence that costs contribute to the maintenance of an ancient R-gene polymorphism.
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We thank J. Dangl for feedback, and members of the Department of Ecology and Evolution for assistance in the field. This research was supported by NIH grants to J.B.
The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.
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Tian, D., Traw, M., Chen, J. et al. Fitness costs of R-gene-mediated resistance in Arabidopsis thaliana. Nature 423, 74–77 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature01588
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