The prevalence of necrotic potato virus Y (PVY) in natural populations could reflect increased fitness of necrotic isolates. In this paper, the effects of the acquisition of molecular determinants (A/G and A/C) involved in necrosis capacity on both the number of progeny produced and the competitiveness of PVY were characterized. The relationship between necrosis and fitness was tested using (i) cv. Xanthi and , (ii) necrotic PVY-605 and non-necrotic PVY-139 isolates, (iii) single-mutated (PVY and PVY) and double-mutated (PVY) versions of PVY-605 and (iv) three quantitative PCR assays specific for nt A, G and A of the PVY genome. The data demonstrated effects of both the genetic background and nt 2213 and 2271 on the fitness of PVY. Quantification of PVY RNA in singly infected plants revealed that both the PVY-605 genetic background and the acquisition of necrotic capacity resulted in a decrease in the number of progeny produced. Competition experiments revealed that the genetic background of PVY had a positive impact on competitiveness. In contrast, nucleotides involved in necrotic properties were associated with decreased fitness. Finally, in the host that did not respond to infection with necrosis, the benefit associated with the PVY-605 genetic background was higher than the cost associated with the acquisition of molecular determinants involved in necrosis capacity. The opposite result was obtained in the host responding to the infection with necrosis. These results indicate that the emergence of necrotic isolates from a non-necrotic population is unlikely in tobacco.


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