Hybrid frequencies confirm limit to coinfection in the RNA bacteriophage Φ6.

Journal of Virology 73:2420-2424.
Year of Publication: 
Turner, P.E., C. Burch, K. Hanley, L. Chao.

Coinfection of the same host cell by multiple viruses may lead to increased competition for limited cellular resources, thus reducing the fitness of an individual virus. Selection should favor viruses that can limit or prevent coinfection, and it is not surprising that many viruses have evolved mechanisms to do so. Here we explore whether coinfection is limited in the RNA bacteriophage Φ6 that infects Pseudomonas phaseolicola. We estimated the limit to coinfection in Φ6 by comparing the frequency of hybrids produced by two marked phage strains to that predicted by a mathematical model based on differing limits to coinfection. Our results provide an alternative method for estimating the limit to coinfection and confirm a previous estimate between two to three phages per host cell. In addition, our data reveal that the rate of coinfection at low phage densities may exceed that expected through random Poisson sampling. We discuss whether phage Φ6 has evolved an optimal limit that balances the costly and beneficial fitness effects associated with multiple infections.