• Evolutionary Stabilization of Cooperative Toxin Production through a Bacterium-Plasmid-Phage Interplay.

      Spriewald, Stefanie; Stadler, Eva; Hense, Burkhard A; Münch, Philipp C; McHardy, Alice C; Weiss, Anna S; Obeng, Nancy; Müller, Johannes; Stecher, Bärbel; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (ASM, 2020-07-21)
      Colicins are toxins produced and released by Enterobacteriaceae to kill competitors in the gut. While group A colicins employ a division of labor strategy to liberate the toxin into the environment via colicin-specific lysis, group B colicin systems lack cognate lysis genes. In Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. Tm), the group B colicin Ib (ColIb) is released by temperate phage-mediated bacteriolysis. Phage-mediated ColIb release promotes S. Tm fitness against competing Escherichia coli It remained unclear how prophage-mediated lysis is realized in a clonal population of ColIb producers and if prophages contribute to evolutionary stability of toxin release in S. Tm. Here, we show that prophage-mediated lysis occurs in an S. Tm subpopulation only, thereby introducing phenotypic heterogeneity to the system. We established a mathematical model to study the dynamic interplay of S. Tm, ColIb, and a temperate phage in the presence of a competing species. Using this model, we studied long-term evolution of phage lysis rates in a fluctuating infection scenario. This revealed that phage lysis evolves as bet-hedging strategy that maximizes phage spread, regardless of whether colicin is present or not. We conclude that the ColIb system, lacking its own lysis gene, is making use of the evolutionary stable phage strategy to be released. Prophage lysis genes are highly prevalent in nontyphoidal Salmonella genomes. This suggests that the release of ColIb by temperate phages is widespread. In conclusion, our findings shed new light on the evolution and ecology of group B colicin systems.IMPORTANCE Bacteria are excellent model organisms to study mechanisms of social evolution. The production of public goods, e.g., toxin release by cell lysis in clonal bacterial populations, is a frequently studied example of cooperative behavior. Here, we analyze evolutionary stabilization of toxin release by the enteric pathogen Salmonella The release of colicin Ib (ColIb), which is used by Salmonella to gain an edge against competing microbiota following infection, is coupled to bacterial lysis mediated by temperate phages. Here, we show that phage-dependent lysis and subsequent release of colicin and phage particles occurs only in part of the ColIb-expressing Salmonella population. This phenotypic heterogeneity in lysis, which represents an essential step in the temperate phage life cycle, has evolved as a bet-hedging strategy under fluctuating environments such as the gastrointestinal tract. Our findings suggest that prophages can thereby evolutionarily stabilize costly toxin release in bacterial populations.