5 years ago

Taxonomic variability and functional stability in microbial communities infected by phages

Michael Doebeli, Stilianos Louca
Microbial communities can display large variation in taxonomic composition, yet this variation can coincide with stable metabolic functional structure and performance. The mechanisms driving the taxonomic variation within functional groups remain largely unknown. Biotic interactions, such as predation by phages, have been suggested as potential cause of taxonomic turnover, but the conditions for this scenario have not been rigorously examined. Further, it is unknown how predation by phages affects community function, and how these effects are modulated by functional redundancy in the communities. Here, we address these questions using a model for a methanogenic microbial community that includes several interacting metabolic functional groups. Each functional group comprises multiple competing clades, and each clade is attacked by a specialist lytic phage. Our model predicts that phages induce intense taxonomic turnover, resembling the variability observed in previous experiments. The functional structure and performance of the community are also disturbed by phage predation, but they become more stable as the functional redundancy in the community increases. The extent of this stabilization depends on the particular functions considered. Our model suggests mechanisms by which functional redundancy stabilizes community function and supports the interpretation that biotic interactions promote taxonomic turnover within microbial functional groups.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.13743

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