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ISME J. 2007 May;1(1):92-5.

Frequency-dependent advantages of plasmid carriage by Pseudomonas in homogeneous and spatially structured environments.

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NERC Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College London, Berkshire, UK.


The conditions promoting the persistence of a plasmid carrying a trait that may be mutually beneficial to other cells in its vicinity were studied in structured and unstructured environments. A large plasmid encoding mercury resistance in Pseudomonas fluorescens was used, and the mercury concentration allowing invasion from rare for both plasmid-bearing and plasmid-free cells was determined for different initial inoculum densities in batch-culture structured (filter surface) and unstructured (mixed broth) environments. A range of mercury concentrations were found where both cell types could coexist, the regions being relatively similar in the two types of environment although density-dependent in the unstructured environment. The coexistence is explained in terms of frequency-dependent selection of the mutually beneficial mercury resistance trait, and the dynamics of bacterial growth under batch culture conditions. However, the region of coexistence was complicated by conjugation which increased plasmid spread in the mixed broth culture but not the structured environment.

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