Resource availability and bacteriophage resistance

Gómez P., Bennie J., Gaston K.J. & Buckling A. (2015) The Impact of Resource Availability on Bacterial Resistance to Phages in Soil. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0123752.

Resource availability can affect the coevolutionary dynamics between host and parasites, shaping communities and hence ecosystem function. A key finding from theoretical and in vitro studies is that host resistance evolves to greater levels with increased resources, but the relevance to natural communities is less clear. We took two complementary approaches to investigate the effect of resource availability on the evolution of bacterial resistance to phages in soil. First, we measured the resistance and infectivity of natural communities of soil bacteria and phage in the presence and absence of nutrient-providing plants. Second, we followed the real-time coevolution between defined bacteria and phage populations with resource availability manipulated by the addition or not of an artificial plant root exudate. Increased resource availability resulted in increases in bacterial resistance to phages, but without a concomitant increase in phage infectivity. These results suggest that phages may have a reduced impact on the control of bacterial densities and community composition in stable, high resource environments.