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Evolution and maintenance of microbe-mediated protection under occasional pathogen infection
  • Anke Kloock,
  • Michael Bonsall,
  • Kayla King
Anke Kloock
University of Oxford Department of Zoology
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Michael Bonsall
University of Oxford
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Kayla King
University of Oxford Department of Zoology
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Abstract

Every host is colonized by a variety of microbes, some of which can protect their hosts from pathogen infection. However, pathogen presence naturally varies over time in nature, such as in the case of seasonal epidemics. We experimentally coevolved populations of Caenorhabditis elegans worm hosts with bacteria possessing protective traits (Enterococcus faecalis), in treatments varying the infection frequency with pathogenic Staphylococcus aureus every host generation, alternating host generations, every fifth host generation or never. We additionally investigated the effect of initial pathogen presence at the formation of the defensive symbiosis. Our results show that enhanced microbe-mediated protection evolved during host-protective microbe coevolution when faced with rare infections by a pathogen. Initial pathogen presence had no effect on the evolutionary outcome of microbe-mediated protection. We also found that protection was only effective at preventing mortality during the time of pathogen infection. Overall, our results suggest that resident microbes can be a form of transgenerational immunity against rare pathogen infection.

Peer review status:Published

10 Jun 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
13 Jun 2020Assigned to Editor
13 Jun 2020Submission Checks Completed
13 Jun 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
15 Jun 2020Editorial Decision: Accept
16 Jul 2020Published in Ecology and Evolution. 10.1002/ece3.6555