Beware batch culture: Seasonality and niche construction predicted to favor bacterial adaptive diversification

Abstract : Metabolic cross-feeding interactions between microbial strains are common in nature, and emerge during evolution experiments in the laboratory, even in homogeneous environments providing a single carbon source. In sympatry, when the environment is well-mixed, the reasons why emerging cross-feeding interactions may sometimes become stable and lead to monophyletic genotypic clusters occupying specific niches, named ecotypes, remain unclear. As an alternative to evolution experiments in the laboratory, we developed Evo 2 Sim, a multi-scale model of in silico experimental evolution, equipped with the whole tool case of experimental setups, competition assays, phylogenetic analysis, and, most importantly, allowing for evolvable ecological interactions. Digital organisms with an evolv-able genome structure encoding an evolvable metabolic network evolved for tens of thousands of generations in environments mimicking the dynamics of real controlled environments, including chemostat or batch culture providing a single limiting resource. We show here that the evolution of stable cross-feeding interactions requires seasonal batch conditions. In this case, adaptive diversification events result in two stably co-existing ecotypes, with one feeding on the primary resource and the other on by-products. We show that the regularity of serial transfers is essential for the maintenance of the polymor-phism, as it allows for at least two stable seasons and thus two temporal niches. A first season is externally generated by the transfer into fresh medium, while a second one is internally generated by niche construction as the provided nutrient is replaced by secreted by-products derived from bacterial growth. In chemostat conditions, even if cross-feeding interactions emerge, they are not stable on the long-term because fitter mutants eventually invade the whole population. We also show that the long-term evolution of the two stable ecotypes leads to character displacement, at the level of the metabolic network but also of the genome structure. This difference of genome structure between both ecotypes impacts the stability of the cross-feeding interaction, when the population is propagated in chemostat conditions. This study shows the crucial role played by seasonality in temporal niche partitioning and in promoting cross-feeding subgroups into stable ecotypes, a premise to sympatric speciation.
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PLoS Computational Biology, Public Library of Science, 2017, 13 (3), e1005459 (32 p.). 〈10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005459.s006〉
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Charles Rocabert, Carole Knibbe, Jessika Consuegra, Dominique Schneider, Guillaume Beslon. Beware batch culture: Seasonality and niche construction predicted to favor bacterial adaptive diversification. PLoS Computational Biology, Public Library of Science, 2017, 13 (3), e1005459 (32 p.). 〈10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005459.s006〉. 〈hal-01508751〉

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