Antagonistic coevolution between a bacterium and a bacteriophage

We demonstrate a long-term arms race between the infectivity of a viral parasite and the resistance of its bacterial host

A. Buckling; P. B.. Rainey


Scholarcy highlights

  • Pathogenic parasites impose selection for resistant hosts, which in turn impose selection for infective parasites
  • Antagonistic coevolution is believed to play a critical role in host and parasite population dynamics, the evolution of parasite virulence and, under some conditions, explain the benefit of producing genetically variable offspring through sexual reproduction
  • The data explicitly demonstrated time-lagged antagonistic coevolution between phage infectivity and bacterial resistance, with reciprocal increases in host resistance and phage infectivity observed throughout the experiment
  • We present, to our knowledge, the first explicit demonstration of long-term antagonistic coevolution, characterized by multiple cycles of defence and counter defence, between a host and parasite species
  • Coevolution was largely driven by directional selection, with hosts becoming progressively more resistant to a wider range of parasite populations and parasites infective to a wider range of host populations
  • Sign tests were used to determine if these slopes were greater than zero in more than 50% of the replicates
  • This study demonstrates that phage are not fundamentally constrained in their ability to coevolve with bacteria
  • Two other features of this and other laboratory microbial studies are likely to decrease the role of fluctuating selection in driving the coevolutionary process: resources were abundant, potentially decreasing the relative fitness costs of resistance and infectivity, and there was no migration between divergently coevolving populations

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