Payne, Pavel

Bacterial herd and social immunity to phages - IST Austria 2017


Biographical Sketch List of Publications Acknowledgments Abstract List of Tables List of Figures List of Abbreviations 1 Introduction 2 CRISPR-based herd immunity limits phage epidemics in bacterial populations 3 Pheromone mediated bacterial social immunity 4 Conlcusions

Bacteria and their pathogens – phages – are the most abundant living entities on Earth. Throughout their coevolution, bacteria have evolved multiple immune systems to overcome the ubiquitous threat from the phages. Although the molecu- lar details of these immune systems’ functions are relatively well understood, their epidemiological consequences for the phage-bacterial communities have been largely neglected. In this thesis we employed both experimental and theoretical methods to explore whether herd and social immunity may arise in bacterial popu- lations. Using our experimental system consisting of Escherichia coli strains with a CRISPR based immunity to the T7 phage we show that herd immunity arises in phage-bacterial communities and that it is accentuated when the populations are spatially structured. By fitting a mathematical model, we inferred expressions for the herd immunity threshold and the velocity of spread of a phage epidemic in partially resistant bacterial populations, which both depend on the bacterial growth rate, phage burst size and phage latent period. We also investigated the poten- tial for social immunity in Streptococcus thermophilus and its phage 2972 using a bioinformatic analysis of potentially coding short open reading frames with a signalling signature, encoded within the CRISPR associated genes. Subsequently, we tested one identified potentially signalling peptide and found that its addition to a phage-challenged culture increases probability of survival of bacteria two fold, although the results were only marginally significant. Together, these results demonstrate that the ubiquitous arms races between bacteria and phages have further consequences at the level of the population.

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