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Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Jul 22;273(1595):1843-8.

Bacteriophage-mediated competition in Bordetella bacteria.

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Department of Veterinary & Biomedical Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, 16802, USA.


Apparent competition between species is believed to be one of the principal driving forces that structure ecological communities, although the precise mechanisms have yet to be characterized. Here we develop a model system that isolates phage-mediated interactions by neutralizing resource competition with a large excess of nutrients, and consists of two genetically identical Bordetella strains that differ only in that one is the carrier of phage and the other is susceptible to the phage. We observe and quantify the competitive advantage of the bacterial strain bearing the prophage in both invading and in resisting invasion by the bacterial strain sensitive to the phage, and use our experimental measurements to develop a mathematical model of phage-mediated competition. The model predicts, and experimental evidence confirms, that the competitive advantage conferred by the lysogenic phage depends only on the phage pathology on the sensitive bacterial strain and is independent of other phage and host parameters, such as the infection-causing contact rate, the spontaneous and infection-induced lysis rates and the phage burst size. This work combines experimental and mathematical approaches to the study of phage-driven competition, and provides an experimentally tested framework for evaluation of the effects of pathogens/parasites on interspecific competition.

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