Community context matters for bacteria-phage ecology and evolution

The ISME Journal (2021): 1-10.
Year of Publication: 
Blazanin, M. and P.E. Turner

Bacteria-phage symbioses are ubiquitous in nature and serve as valuable biological models. Historically, the ecology and evolution of bacteria-phage systems have been studied in either very simple or very complex communities. Although both approaches provide insight, their shortcomings limit our understanding of bacteria and phages in multispecies contexts. To address this gap, here we synthesize the emerging body of bacteria-phage experiments in medium-complexity communities, specifically those that manipulate bacterial community presence. Generally, community presence suppresses both focal bacterial (phage host) and phage densities, while sometimes altering bacteria-phage ecological interactions in diverse ways. Simultaneously, community presence can have an array of evolutionary effects. Sometimes community presence has no effect on the coevolutionary dynamics of bacteria and their associated phages, whereas other times the presence of additional bacterial species constrains bacteria-phage coevolution. At the same time, community context can alter mechanisms of adaptation and interact with the pleiotropic consequences of (co)evolution. Ultimately, these experiments show that community context can have important ecological and evolutionary effects on bacteria-phage systems, but many questions still remain unanswered and ripe for additional investigation.