How cooling kills bacteria that prey on prey

The predatory bacterium Myxococcus xanthus (left) slaughters its prey (right). Black dots are characteristic of predatory interactions with predatory aggregates called fruiting bodies and ripples in the contact zone. Credit: Nicola Mayrhofer (CC-BY 4.0)

New study demonstrates that environmental changes can flip the microbial predator-prey hierarchy.

In a new study, two species Bacteria grown in a lab changed their predator-prey relationship after a species grew at low temperatures. Marie Vass of France's MIVEGEC and colleagues published the findings on January 23.rd In Open Access Journal PLOS Biology.

Environmental influences on predator-prey interactions

Previous research has shown that ecological context can influence predator-prey relationships. For example, the similarity or difference between the background color of a prey species and how easily it can be detected by predators. In addition, predator-prey relationships can sometimes change, as in two crustacean species that mutually prey on each other, a change in surrounding salinity changes which species is dominant. However, there are few known examples of such switching in response to non-biological ecological changes.

Laboratory test and findings

Some bacteria prey on others, and the ecological environment can influence predation ability. Based on that knowledge, Wass and colleagues conducted several laboratory experiments to test how temperature might affect predator-prey relationships between bacterial species. Myxococcus xanthus And Pseudomonas fluorescens.

They found out when B. Fluorescence A dish was grown at 32°C Celsius will emerge later M. Xanthus, M. Xanthus He acted as a hunter and was killed in large numbers B. Fluorescence. However, later B. Fluorescence Reared at 22°C, the predator-prey relationship changed B. Fluorescence Absorption of nutrients M. Xanthus For its continuous development.

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The researchers conducted further experiments to better understand the mechanism by which growth in cold temperatures alters predator-prey roles. They consumed the non-protein material they released B. Fluorescence It is dangerous M. XanthusIts production appears to be affected by temperature.

Importance of historical context

Many types of microbe-killing not traditionally associated with predation — the consumption of a killed organism by its killer — may actually be the result, the researchers say. In this study, they also specify what the temperature is B. Fluorescence Grown up before meeting M. Xanthus Two species can later determine which is predator and which is prey when they meet, highlighting the importance of considering historical context when assessing current predator-prey relationships.

Implications and future research

This study and follow-up research will help us understand both natural ecology and practical applications, such as optimizing the use of certain microorganisms.

The authors add, „We find it fascinating that a relatively small change in an environmental factor can determine who kills and eats whom in microbial predation. We suspect that microbial-microbicide predation is more frequent than previously appreciated.”

Note: Mary Vasse, Francesca Figna, Ben Kreisel, and Gregory J. Veliser, 23 Jan. 2024, “Killer Prey: Ecology Transforms Bacterial Predation” PLOS Biology.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3002454

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