Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The co-evolution of bacterial plant pathogens and their hosts is a complex and dynamic process. Host resistance imposes stress on invading pathogens that can lead to changes in the bacterial genome enabling the pathogen to escape host resistance. We have observed this phenomenon with the plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. phaseolicola where isolates that have lost the genomic island PPHGI-1 carrying the effector gene avrPphB from its chromosome are infective against previously resistant plant hosts. However, we have never observed island extinction from the pathogen population within a host suggesting the island is maintained. Here, we present a mathematical model which predicts different possible fates for the island in the population; one outcome indicated that PPHGI-1 would be maintained at low frequency in the population long term, if it confers a fitness benefit. We empirically tested this prediction and determined that PPHGI-1 frequency in the bacterial population drops to a low but consistently detectable level during host resistance. Once PPHGI-1-carrying cells encounter a susceptible host, they rapidly increase in the population in a negative frequency-dependent manner. Importantly, our data show that mobile genetic elements can persist within the bacterial population and increase in frequency under favourable conditions.

Original publication




Journal article


Environ Microbiol

Publication Date





4144 - 4152


Bacterial Proteins, Genomic Islands, Plant Diseases, Plants, Pseudomonas syringae