Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Genetic diversity helps protect against disease

23.05.2018

So much for survival of the fittest – diversity is the key: a team of researchers from the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) has succeeded in demonstrating experimentally that genetic diversity makes populations more resistant to disease.

Why is it that animal and plant species throughout the world have different genetic variants within their particular species, even though it is supposed to be the “fittest” gene pool that survives?


The micrograph shows two cyanobacterial filaments, the lower one has been infected.

Image: Reingard Roßberg / IGB

According to a common theory in evolutionary biology, it is to enable the species to respond more effectively to changes in the environment, such as the occurrence of disease. However, experimental evidence to support this theory is very difficult to obtain: After all, it is virtually impossible to observe how evolutionary trends develop in most animal and plant species – their generation times are simply too long.

Evolutionary change in real time

A team led by IGB researcher and evolutionary ecologist Dr. Ramsy Agha has now investigated the evolution of the fungal parasite Rhizophydium megarrhizum. This parasite infects the cyanobacterium species Planktothrix, which is prevalent in many freshwaters.

The team exposed the parasite to host populations whose individuals were genetically identical to each other, and alternatively to populations comprised of different genetic variants. Since the fungus multiplies rapidly, roughly once a day, the scientists monitored its performance for a total period of 200 days. “We wanted to observe evolutionary change in real time and under controlled conditions, to find out if and how quickly parasites adapt to genetically homogenous and diverse hosts,” explained Ramsy Agha.

The scientists permitted the adaptation of Rhizophydium megarrhizum, but kept the host populations in an evolutionary standstill. “We were able to show that the fungi adapt to genetically homogenous hosts very quickly, that is within just three months,” reported Agha. This adaptation is reflected in the fact that the parasites managed to adhere to the hosts and overcome their defence mechanisms more quickly, and were therefore able to reproduce more rapidly.

Genetic diversity in the host population slows down adaptation of parasites

If, on the other hand, the cyanobacteria were genetically diverse, these effects did not occur. The parasite failed to adapt, and the state of the disease remained unchanged. Genetic diversity in cyanobacteria evidently slows down the adaptation of the parasite, increasing their resistance to disease.

“Our findings are also significant for ecosystem research in general, because they help us to explain why a high degree of diversity in populations may be valuable for their preservation,” said Agha. He and his team want to investigate next what happens when not only the parasite, but also the host population is permitted to adapt to changed conditions. The researchers hope to gain further insights into how disease – generally perceived as a negative phenomenon – is a crucial natural process that promotes and preserves biological diversity.

Read the study in Frontiers in Microbiology > https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2018.00921/full

Agha R, Gross A, Rohrlack T and Wolinska J (2018) Adaptation of a Chytrid Parasite to Its Cyanobacterial Host Is Hampered by Host Intraspecific Diversity. Front. Microbiol. 9:921. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.00921

Image caption:

The micrograph, taken using a scanning electron microscope, shows two cyanobacterial filaments at 6000-fold magnification. The lower filament has been infected by several chytrid spores – the round structures at the tip of the filament. The parasite penetrates the filament, takes up the nutrients from its interior and uses it for its growth. This helps the spores to develop into bigger structures. Once the so-called sporangia are mature, they release new spores capable of infecting other hosts. | Image: Reingard Roßberg / IGB

Contacts:

Dr. Ramsy Agha, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Department Ecosystem Research, Research Group Disease Evolutionary Ecology, +49 (0)30 64 181 745, agha@igb-berlin.de

Katharina Bunk, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Public Relations, +49 (0)30 641 81 631, +49 (0)170 45 49 034, bunk@igb-berlin.de

About the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB):

Work at IGB combines basic research with preventive research as a basis for the sustainable management of freshwaters. In the process, IGB explores the structure and function of aquatic ecosystems under near-natural conditions and under the effect of multiple stressors. Its key research activities include the long-term development of lakes, rivers and wetlands under rapidly changing global, regional and local environmental conditions, the development of coupled ecological and socio-economic models, the renaturation of ecosystems, and the biodiversity of aquatic habitats. Work is conducted in close cooperation with universities and research institutions from the Berlin-Brandenburg region as well as worldwide. IGB is a member of the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V., an association of eight research institutes of natural sciences, life sciences and environmental sciences in Berlin. The institutes are members of the Leibniz Association. http://www.igb-berlin.de/en

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.igb-berlin.de/en/news/genetic-diversity-helps-protect-against-disease

Katharina Bunk | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

Further reports about: Freshwater Ecology IGB ecology parasite parasites plant species populations species spores

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Tag it EASI – a new method for accurate protein analysis
20.06.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

nachricht How to track and trace a protein: Nanosensors monitor intracellular deliveries
19.06.2018 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Creating a new composite fuel for new-generation fast reactors

20.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Game-changing finding pushes 3D-printing to the molecular limit

20.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Could this material enable autonomous vehicles to come to market sooner?

20.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>