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Nonmotile microorganisms often enter new habitats by co-transport with motile microorganisms. Here, we report that also lytic phages can co-transport with hyphal-riding bacteria and facilitate bacterial colonization of a new habitat. This is comparable to the concept of biological invasions in macroecology. In analogy to invasion frameworks in plant and animal ecology, we tailored spatially organized, water-unsaturated model microcosms using hyphae of Pythium ultimum as invasion paths and flagellated soil-bacterium Pseudomonas putida KT2440 as carrier for co-transport of Escherichia virus T4. P. putida KT2440 efficiently dispersed along P. ultimum to new habitats and dispatched T4 phages across air gaps transporting ≈0.6 phages bacteria-1. No T4 displacement along hyphae was observed in the absence of carrier bacteria. If E. coli occupied the new habitat, T4 co-transport fueled the fitness of invading P. putida KT2440, while the absence of phage co-transport led to poor colonization followed by extinction. Our data emphasize the importance of hyphal transport of bacteria and associated phages in regulating fitness and composition of microbial populations in water-unsaturated systems. As such co-transport seems analogous to macroecological invasion processes, hyphosphere systems with motile bacteria and co-transported phages could be useful models for testing hypotheses in invasion ecology. © 2021. The Author(s).


Xin You, René Kallies, Ingolf Kühn, Matthias Schmidt, Hauke Harms, Antonis Chatzinotas, Lukas Y Wick. Phage co-transport with hyphal-riding bacteria fuels bacterial invasion in a water-unsaturated microbial model system. The ISME journal. 2022 May;16(5):1275-1283

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PMID: 34903848

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