Local Adaptation of Bacteriophages to Their Bacterial Hosts in Soil

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Science  14 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5942, pp. 833
DOI: 10.1126/science.1174173

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Microbes are incredibly abundant and diverse and are key to ecosystem functioning, yet relatively little is known about the ecological and evolutionary mechanisms that shape their distributions. Bacteriophages, viral parasites that lyse their bacterial hosts, exert intense and spatially varying selection pressures on bacteria and vice versa. We measured local adaptation of bacteria and their associated phages in a centimeter-scale soil population. We first demonstrate that a large proportion of bacteria is sensitive to locally occurring phages. We then show that sympatric phages (isolated from the same 2-gram soil samples as the bacteria) are more infective than are phages from samples some distance away. This study demonstrates the importance of biotic interactions for the small-scale spatial structuring of microbial genetic diversity in soil.

  • * Present address: Netherlands Institute of Ecology–Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (NIOO-KNAW) Centre for Terrestrial Ecology, 6666 GA Heteren, Netherlands.

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