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Science. 2009 Aug 21;325(5943):992-4. doi: 10.1126/science.1174463.

Bacteriophages encode factors required for protection in a symbiotic mutualism.

Author information

1
Department of Entomology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA. kmoliver@uga.edu

Abstract

Bacteriophages are known to carry key virulence factors for pathogenic bacteria, but their roles in symbiotic bacteria are less well understood. The heritable symbiont Hamiltonella defensa protects the aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum from attack by the parasitoid Aphidius ervi by killing developing wasp larvae. In a controlled genetic background, we show that a toxin-encoding bacteriophage is required to produce the protective phenotype. Phage loss occurs repeatedly in laboratory-held H. defensa-infected aphid clonal lines, resulting in increased susceptibility to parasitism in each instance. Our results show that these mobile genetic elements can endow a bacterial symbiont with benefits that extend to the animal host. Thus, phages vector ecologically important traits, such as defense against parasitoids, within and among symbiont and animal host lineages.

PMID:
19696350
PMCID:
PMC5473335
DOI:
10.1126/science.1174463
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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