, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 395-406

Effects of Bacteriophages on the Population Dynamics of Four Strains of Pelagic Marine Bacteria

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Viral lysis of specific bacterial populations has been suggested to be an important factor for structuring marine bacterioplankton communities. In the present study, the influence of bacteriophages on the diversity and population dynamics of four marine bacterial phage-host systems was studied experimentally in continuous cultures and theoretically by a mathematical model. By use of whole genome DNA hybridization toward community DNA, we analyzed the dynamics of individual bacterial host populations in response to the addition of their specific phage in continuous cultures of mixed bacterial assemblages. In these experiments, viral lysis had only temporary effects on the dynamics and diversity of the individual bacterial host species. Following the initial lysis of sensitive host cells, growth of phage-resistant clones of the added bacteria resulted in a distribution of bacterial strains in the phage-enriched culture that was similar to that in the control culture without phages after about 50-60 h incubation. Consequently, after a time frame of 5-10 generations after lysis, it was the interspecies competition rather than viral lysis of specific bacterial strains that was the driving force in the regulation of bacterial species composition in these experiments. The clonal diversity, on the other hand, was strongly influenced by viral activity, since the clonal composition of the four species in the phage-enriched culture changed completely from phage-sensitive to phage-resistant clones. The model simulation predicted that viral lysis had a strong impact on the population dynamics, the species composition, and the clonal composition of the bacterial community over longer time scales (weeks). However, according to the model, the overall density of bacteria in the system was not affected by phages, since resistant clones complemented the fluctuations caused by viral lysis. Based on the model analysis, we therefore suggest that viral lysis can have a strong influence on the dynamics of bacterial populations in planktonic marine systems.