Community context matters for bacteria-phage ecology and evolution

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Michael Blazanin, Paul E. Turner


Bacteria-phage symbioses are ubiquitous in nature and serve as valuable biological models. Historically, the ecology and evolution of bacteria-phage systems have been studied in either very simple or very complex communities. Although both approaches provide insight, their shortcomings limit our understanding of bacteria and phages in multispecies contexts. To address this gap, here we synthesize the emerging body of bacteria-phage experiments in medium-complexity communities, specifically those that manipulate bacterial community presence. Generally, community presence suppresses both focal bacterial (phage host) and phage densities, while sometimes altering bacteria-phage ecological interactions in diverse ways. Simultaneously, community presence can have an array of evolutionary effects. Sometimes community presence has no effect on the coevolutionary dynamics of bacteria and their associated phages, whereas other times the presence of additional bacterial species constrains bacteria-phage coevolution. At the same time, community context can alter mechanisms of adaptation and interact with the pleiotropic consequences of (co)evolution. Ultimately, these experiments show that community context can have important ecological and evolutionary effects on bacteria-phage systems, but many questions still remain unanswered and ripe for additional investigation.



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences, Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


bacteria, coevolution, Community, Competition, ecology, evolution, Experimental evolution, meta-analysis, Phage, Pleiotropy, review, Symbiont


Published: 2021-05-26 09:17

Last Updated: 2021-05-26 17:09

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Conflict of interest statement:
M.B. declares no competing interests. P.E.T. is a co-founder of Felix Biotechnology Inc., and declares a financial interest in this company that seeks to commercially develop phages for use as therapeutics.

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