• Open Access

SPITE VERSUS CHEATS: COMPETITION AMONG SOCIAL STRATEGIES SHAPES VIRULENCE IN PSEUDOMONAS AERUGINOSA

Authors

  • R. Fredrik Inglis,

    1. Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3PS, United Kingdom
    2. Department of Environmental Sciences, Eidgenössiche Technische Hochschule Zürich, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland
    3. Department of Environmental Microbiology, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), CH-8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland
    4. E-mail: fredrik.inglis@env.ethz.ch
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Sam P. Brown,

    1. Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3PS, United Kingdom
    2. Centre for Immunity, Infection & Evolution, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Angus Buckling

    1. Biosciences, University of Exeter, Penryn, TR10 9EZ, United Kingdom
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Social interactions have been shown to play an important role in bacterial evolution and virulence. The majority of empirical studies conducted have only considered social traits in isolation, yet numerous social traits, such as the production of spiteful bacteriocins (anticompetitor toxins) and iron-scavenging siderophores (a public good) by the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, are frequently expressed simultaneously. Crucially, both bacteriocin production and siderophore cheating can be favored under the same competitive conditions, and we develop theory and carry out experiments to determine how the success of a bacteriocin-producing genotype is influenced by social cheating of susceptible competitors and the resultant impact on disease severity (virulence). Consistent with our theoretical predictions, we find that the spiteful genotype is favored at higher local frequencies when competing against public good cheats. Furthermore, the relationship between spite frequency and virulence is significantly altered when the spiteful genotype is competed against cheats compared with cooperators. These results confirm the ecological and evolutionary importance of considering multiple social traits simultaneously. Moreover, our results are consistent with recent theory regarding the invasion conditions for strong reciprocity (helping cooperators and harming noncooperators).

Ancillary