A novel cost of R gene resistance in the presence of disease

Tonia Korves, Joy Bergelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Resistance responses can impose fitness costs when pests are absent. Here, we test whether the induction of resistance can decrease fitness even in plants under attack; we call this potential outcome a net cost with attack. Using lines in which genetic background was controlled, we investigated whether susceptible Arabidopsis thaliana plants can outperform R gene resistant plants when infected with pathogens. For the R gene RPS2, there was a fitness benefit of resistance in the presence of intraspecific competition, but there was a net cost in the absence of competition: resistant plants produced less seed than susceptible plants even though infected with Pseudomonas syringae. This net cost was primarily due to overcompensation by susceptible plants, which occurred because of a developmental response to infection. For the R gene RPP5, there was no fitness effect of resistance without competition but a net cost when plants were infected with Peronospora parasitica in the presence of competition. This net cost was due to a reduction in the fitness of infected, resistant plants and complete compensation in susceptible plants. A spatially variable model suggests that a trade-off between net benefits and net costs with attack may help explain the persistence of individuals lacking R gene resistance to disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-504
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • Cost
  • Overcompensation
  • Pathogen
  • R gene
  • Resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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