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Full Genome Sequencing Shows Evidence of Regional Pathogen Diversity in Agraulis vanillae nucleopolyhedrovirus (AgvaNPV)

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Disease-causing viruses can adapt to their host, becoming more specialized and thus better able to infect a particular host species or genotype. If the disease, or pathogen, interacts with a host specific to the same geographic area, then both hosts and pathogens will co-evolve in response to each other, leading to local adaptation. I studied the host/pathogen relationship between Agraulis vanillae, commonly known as the Gulf fritillary butterfly, and nucleopolyhedrovirus (NPV), a lethal virus which is transmitted when it contaminates passion flower vines, the food species of the host larvae. I used next-generation sequencing techniques to sequence and analyze full genomes of 21 virus isolates collected at various locations in San Diego county, to look for evidence of regional diversity in this pathogen. I found evidence of geographic structure on a very small spatial scale, with two groups of genetically different strains found in North San Diego County versus the city of San Diego. This genetic variation was observed in key genes, important for disease transmission and virus reproduction. This genetic variation is consistent with pathogen evolution of specialization to its location-specific host, or with geographic barriers to dispersal of the pathogen. To determine whether local adaptation is in fact occurring here, future work is needed to compare infection rates of these northern and central San Diego strains in larvae from those same populations.

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Full Genome Sequencing Shows Evidence of Regional Pathogen Diversity in Agraulis vanillae nucleopolyhedrovirus (AgvaNPV)

Disease-causing viruses can adapt to their host, becoming more specialized and thus better able to infect a particular host species or genotype. If the disease, or pathogen, interacts with a host specific to the same geographic area, then both hosts and pathogens will co-evolve in response to each other, leading to local adaptation. I studied the host/pathogen relationship between Agraulis vanillae, commonly known as the Gulf fritillary butterfly, and nucleopolyhedrovirus (NPV), a lethal virus which is transmitted when it contaminates passion flower vines, the food species of the host larvae. I used next-generation sequencing techniques to sequence and analyze full genomes of 21 virus isolates collected at various locations in San Diego county, to look for evidence of regional diversity in this pathogen. I found evidence of geographic structure on a very small spatial scale, with two groups of genetically different strains found in North San Diego County versus the city of San Diego. This genetic variation was observed in key genes, important for disease transmission and virus reproduction. This genetic variation is consistent with pathogen evolution of specialization to its location-specific host, or with geographic barriers to dispersal of the pathogen. To determine whether local adaptation is in fact occurring here, future work is needed to compare infection rates of these northern and central San Diego strains in larvae from those same populations.