Bacteriophages encode factors required for protection in a symbiotic mutualism

Kerry M. Oliver, Patrick H. Degnan, Martha S. Hunter, Nancy A. Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

284 Scopus citations

Abstract

Bacteriophages are known to carry key virulence factors for pathogenic bacteria, but their roles in symbiotic bacteria are less well understood. The heritable symbiont Hamiltonella defensa protects the aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum from attack by the parasitoid Aphidius ervi by killing developing wasp larvae. In a controlled genetic background, we show that a toxin-encoding bacteriophage is required to produce the protective phenotype. Phage loss occurs repeatedly in laboratory-held H. defensa-infected aphid clonal lines, resulting in increased susceptibility to parasitism in each instance. Our results show that these mobile genetic elements can endow a bacterial symbiont with benefits that extend to the animal host. Thus, phages vector ecologically important traits, such as defense against parasitoids, within and among symbiont and animal host lineages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)992-994
Number of pages3
JournalScience
Volume325
Issue number5943
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Bacteriophages encode factors required for protection in a symbiotic mutualism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this