Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 17, Issue 5–6, pp 441–456

Evolution of herbicide resistance in weeds: vertically transmitted fungal endophytes as genetic entities

  • Martin M. Vila-Aiub
  • M. Alejandra Martinez-Ghersa
  • Claudio M. Ghersa


The appearance of heritable resistance to herbicides in weeds is an evolutionary process driven by human selection. Assuming that spontaneous and random mutations originate herbicide resistance genes, which are selected by selection pressure imposed by herbicides, is the simplest model to understand how this phenomenon appears and increases in weed populations. However, the rate of herbicide resistance evolution is not only determined by the amount of genetic variation within the populations and the selection pressure exerted by herbicides, but also by factors related to genetics, biology and ecology of weeds. The inheritance of the resistance genes, the mating patterns of the populations, the relative fitness of susceptible and resistant phenotypes and gene flow processes also control the mentioned rate. Many cool season grasses are often infected by fungal symbiotic endophytes (Neotyphodium spp.). These organisms modify the physiology, ecology and reproductive biology of their hosts, conferring greater tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses, greater competitive ability and the capacity of reducing ecosystem biodiversity. In this work, we present new empirical data and propose new theoretical support on how these microbial symbionts can modulate the evolution of herbicide resistance in weeds. Fungal endophytes are vertically transmitted, and may act as genetic entities altering the evolution of herbicide resistance by reducing herbicide efficacy (delaying effect on evolution). In addition, indirect evidence suggests that fungal endophytes might reduce the fitness penalty associated with the newly arisen resistant phenotypes. The importance and dynamic of these opposite effects is discussed.

fitness herbicide selection Lolium multiflorum Neotyphodium resistance genes 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin M. Vila-Aiub
    • 1
  • M. Alejandra Martinez-Ghersa
    • 1
  • Claudio M. Ghersa
    • 1
  1. 1.IFEVA, Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambiente, Facultad de AgronomíaUniversidad de Buenos Aires (UBA)Buenos AiresArgentina
  2. 2.Western Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (WAHRI), School of Plant Biology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural SciencesThe University of Western Australia (UWA)CrawleyAustralia

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