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Established Microbial Colonies Can Survive Type VI Secretion Assault

Author(s): Borenstein, David Bruce; Ringel, Peter; Basler, Marek; Wingreen, Ned

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Abstract: Type VI secretion (T6S) is a cell-to-cell injection system that can be used as a microbial weapon. T6S kills vulnerable cells, and is present in close to 25% of sequenced Gram-negative bacteria. To examine the ecological role of T6S among bacteria, we competed selfimmune T6S+ cells and T6S-sensitive cells in simulated range expansions. As killing takes place only at the interface between sensitive and T6S+ strains, while growth takes place everywhere, sufficiently large domains of sensitive cells can achieve net growth in the face of attack. Indeed T6S-sensitive cells can often outgrow their T6S+ competitors. We validated these findings through in vivo competition experiments between T6S+ Vibrio cholerae and T6S-sensitive Escherichia coli. We found that E. coli can survive and even dominate so long as they have an adequate opportunity to form microcolonies at the outset of the competition. Finally, in simulated competitions between two equivalent and mutually sensitive T6S+ strains, the more numerous strain has an advantage that increases with the T6S attack rate. We conclude that sufficiently large domains of T6S-sensitive individuals can survive attack and potentially outcompete self-immune T6S+ bacteria.
Publication Date: 20-Oct-2015
Electronic Publication Date: 20-Oct-2015
Citation: Borenstein, David Bruce, Ringel, Peter, Basler, Marek, Wingreen, Ned S. (2015). Established Microbial Colonies Can Survive Type VI Secretion Assault. PLOS Computational Biology, 11 (10), e1004520 - e1004520. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004520
DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004520
EISSN: 1553-7358
Pages: e1004520 - e1004520
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: PLOS Computational Biology
Version: Final published version. This is an open access article.

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