Biological control of aflatoxin contamination by Aspergillus flavus is achieved through competitive exclusion of aflatoxin producers by atoxigenic strains. Factors dictating the extent to which competitive displacement occurs during host infection are unknown. The role of initial host contact in competition between pairs of A. flavus isolates coinfecting maize kernels was examined. Isolate success during tissue invasion and reproduction was assessed by quantification of isolate-specific single nucleotide polymorphisms using pyrosequencing. Isolates were inoculated either simultaneously or 1 h apart. Increased success during competition was conferred to the first isolate to contact the host independent of that isolate's innate competitive ability. The first-isolate advantage decreased with the conidial concentration, suggesting capture of limited resources on kernel surfaces contributes to competitive exclusion. Attempts to modify access to putative attachment sites by either coating kernels with dead conidia or washing kernels with solvents did not influence the success of the first isolate, suggesting competition for limited attachment sites on kernel surfaces does not mediate first-isolate advantage. The current study is the first to demonstrate an immediate competitive advantage conferred to A. flavus isolates upon host contact and prior to either germ tube emergence or host colonization. This suggests the timing of host contact is as important to competition during disease cycles as innate competitive ability. Early dispersal to susceptible crop components may allow maintenance within A. flavus populations of genetic types with low competitive ability during host tissue invasion
To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.