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Evolution. 2016 May;70(5):969-78. doi: 10.1111/evo.12909. Epub 2016 Apr 19.

Parasite diversity drives rapid host dynamics and evolution of resistance in a bacteria-phage system.

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Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3PS, United Kingdom.
Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3PS, United Kingdom.


Host-parasite evolutionary interactions are typically considered in a pairwise species framework. However, natural infections frequently involve multiple parasites. Altering parasite diversity alters ecological and evolutionary dynamics as parasites compete and hosts resist multiple infection. We investigated the effects of parasite diversity on host-parasite population dynamics and evolution using the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa and five lytic bacteriophage parasites. To manipulate parasite diversity, bacterial populations were exposed for 24 hours to either phage monocultures or diverse communities containing up to five phages. Phage communities suppressed host populations more rapidly but also showed reduced phage density, likely due to interphage competition. The evolution of resistance allowed rapid bacterial recovery that was greater in magnitude with increases in phage diversity. We observed no difference in the extent of resistance with increased parasite diversity, but there was a profound impact on the specificity of resistance; specialized resistance evolved to monocultures through mutations in a diverse set of genes. In summary, we demonstrate that parasite diversity has rapid effects on host-parasite population dynamics and evolution by selecting for different resistance mutations and affecting the magnitude of bacterial suppression and recovery. Finally, we discuss the implications of phage diversity for their use as biological control agents.


Bacteria; bacteriophage; community; experimental evolution; host/parasite

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