Repeated outbreaks drive the evolution of bacteriophage communication

Hilje M. Doekes*, Glenn A. Mulder, Rutger Hermsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Recently, a small-molecule communication mechanism was discovered in a range of Bacillus-infecting bacteriophages, which these temperate phages use to inform their lysis-lysogeny decision. We present a mathematical model of the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of such viral communication, and show that a communication strategy in which phages use the lytic cycle early in an outbreak (when susceptible host cells are abundant) but switch to the lysogenic cycle later (when susceptible cells become scarce) is favoured over a bet-hedging strategy in which cells are lysogenised with constant probability. However, such phage communication can evolve only if phage-bacteria populations are regularly perturbed away from their equilibrium state, so that acute outbreaks of phage infections in pools of susceptible cells continue to occur. Our model then predicts the selection of phages that switch infection strategy when half of the available susceptible cells have been infected.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere58410
Pages (from-to)1-41
Number of pages41
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2021


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