Butkovic, Anamarija; Ruben Gonzalez; Ines Cobo and Santiago F. Elena

Robustness is the preservation of the phenotype in the face of genetic and environmental perturbations. It has been argued that robustness must be an essential fitness component of RNA viruses owed to their small and compacted genomes, high mutation rates and living in ever-changing environmental conditions. Given that genetic robustness might hamper possible beneficial mutations, it has been suggested that genetic robustness can only evolve as a side-effect of the evolution of robustness mechanisms specific to cope with environmental perturbations, a theory known as plastogenetic congruence. However, empirical evidences from different viral systems are contradictory. To test how adaptation to a particular environment affects both environmental and genetic robustness, we have used two strains of turnip mosaic potyvirus (TuMV) that differ in their degree of adaptation to Arabidopsis thaliana at a permissive temperature. We show that the highly-adapted strain is strongly sensitive to the effect of random mutations and to changes in temperature conditions. By contrast, the non-adapted strain shows more robustness against both the accumulation of random mutations and drastic changes in temperature conditions. Together, these results are consistent with the predictions of the plastogenetic congruence theory, suggesting that genetic and environmental robustnesses may be two sides of the same coin for TuMV.