Agudelo-Romero, P.,de la Iglesia, F.,Elena, S. F.

Host-range expansion is thought to allow viruses to broaden their ecological niches by allowing access to new resources. However, traits governing the infection of multiple hosts may decrease fitness in the original one due to the pleiotropic effect of adaptive mutations that may give rise to fitness tradeoffs across hosts. Here, we have experimentally examined the consequences of host-specialization in the plant pathogen Tobacco etch potyvirus (TEV). Replicate populations of TEV were allowed to evolve for 15 serial undiluted passages on the original tobacco host or on pepper, a novel host. Virulence and biologically active viral load were evaluated during the course of the experiment for each lineage on both potential hosts. In agreement with the tradeoff hypothesis, lineages evolved in the novel host experienced substantial increases in virulence and virus accumulation in its own host, but suffered reduced virulence and accumulation on the original host. By contrast, lineages evolved on the ancestral host did not increase virulence or viral load on either host. Genomic consensus sequences were obtained for each lineage at the end time point. The potential relevance for the evolution of virulence and virus fitness of the characterized mutations is discussed. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.