Costs of Resistance: A Test Using Transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana

Joy Bergelson, Colin B. Purrington, Curtis J. Palm, Juan-Carlos LOpez-Gutierrez


Evolutionary biologists have long attributed polymorphisms in resistance status to fitness costs of resistance traits. Nevertheless, pleiotropic fitness costs of resistance have been notoriously difficult to detect. We have transformed Arabidopsis thaliana with a mutant acetolactate synthase gene that confers resistance to the herbicide, chlorsulfuron. Our experiment revealed a 34% reduction in the lifetime seed production of transgenic, herbicide resistant Arabidopsis thaliana relative to their susceptible nullsegregants. Our experimental design allows us to conclude that this fitness cost of resistance is caused by the pleiotropic effect of the introduced acetolactate synthase gene rather than other potential costs associated with the plasmid or mutational changes induced by plant transformation. In addition, we can attribute the cost of resistance to the presence of the resistance gene rather than an increase in gene dosage. The implications of these results for the risk assessment of transgenic crops are discussed.

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