1887

Abstract

By transferring ecologically important traits between species, plasmids drive genomic divergence and evolutionary innovation in their bacterial hosts. Bacterial communities are often diverse and contain multiple coexisting plasmids, but the dynamics of plasmids in multi-species communities are poorly understood. Here, we show, using experimental multi-species communities containing two plasmids, that bacterial diversity limits the horizontal transmission of plasmids due to the ‘dilution effect’; this is an epidemiological phenomenon whereby living alongside less proficient host species reduces the expected infection risk for a focal host species. In addition, plasmid horizontal transmission was also affected by plasmid diversity, such that the rate of plasmid conjugation was reduced from co-infected host cells carrying both plasmids. In diverse microbial communities, plasmid spread may be limited by the dilution effect and plasmid–plasmid interactions, reducing the rate of horizontal transmission.

Funding
This study was supported by the:
  • biotechnology and biological sciences research council (Award BB/R018154/1)
    • Principle Award Recipient: MichaelA Brockhurst
  • biotechnology and biological sciences research council (Award BB/R006253/1)
    • Principle Award Recipient: MichaelA Brockhurst
  • natural environment research council (Award NE/R008825/1)
    • Principle Award Recipient: MichaelA Brockhurst
  • leverhulme trust (Award PLP-2014-242)
    • Principle Award Recipient: MichaelA Brockhurst
  • fp7 ideas: european research council (Award FP7/2007-2013/ERC grant StG-2012-311490–COEVOCON)
    • Principle Award Recipient: MichaelA Brockhurst
  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. This article was made open access via a Publish and Read agreement between the Microbiology Society and the corresponding author’s institution.
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2021-09-08
2021-09-24
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