Chytrid, Co-infection, Competition, Planktothrix agardhii, Polyculture
Cyanobacteria have a great diversity of natural enemies, such as herbivores and pathogens, including fungal pathogens within the Chytridiomycota (chytrids). While these pathogens have been previously described on a select number of cyanobacterial hosts and are suspected to play a significant ecological role, little is understood about species interactions and how competition between parasites can affect epidemic development and bloom formation. Here, three Planktothrix agardhii isolates from Sandusky Bay, Lake Erie (OH, USA) were challenged in monoculture and polyculture against infection by three isolates (C1, C2, C10) of their obligate chytrid fungal pathogen, Rhizophydiales sp. The chytrid isolates were inoculated as single isolates or a mixture of up to three different isolates. In monoculture, host isolates were characterized as highly susceptible (P. agardhii 1030), moderately susceptible (P. agardhii 1808) or mostly resistant (P. agardhii 1801). Co-infection of chytrid isolates on the highly susceptible host isolate had an additive effect on chytrid prevalence, leading to a culture crash where 2 or 3 chytrid isolates were present. Co-infection of chytrid isolates on the moderately susceptible and mostly resistant isolates had no effect on chytrid infection outcome or prevalence compared to infection with a single isolate. In polyculture, the effect on host growth was most significant in the single chytrid isolate treatment, which was attenuated with the addition of mixed chytrid treatments. Genetic analysis of the resulting population after the experimental period showed a tendency for the chytrid isolate C1 and P. agardhii 1801 to dominate in mixed population samples. Two different interspecific interactions seem to be in play; varied parasite infection strategies allow for the amplification of infection prevalence due to mixed chytrids in a susceptible monoculture, or competition allows for the dominance of a single chytrid isolate in monoculture and the reduction of infection prevalence in a host polyculture. This work thus highlights how interactions between chytrid infections can change the course of epidemic development and harmful algal bloom formation.
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McKindles, Katelyn M.; McKay, R. Michael L.; Bullerjahn, George S.; and Frenken, Thijs. (2023). Interactions between chytrids cause variable infection strategies on harmful algal bloom forming species. Harmful Algae, 122.