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A theoretical and empirical investigation of the invasion dynamics of colicinogeny.


Gordon DM and Riley MA


A mathematical model describing the dynamics of a colicinogenic and a colicin-sensitive population propagated under serial transfer culture conditions was formulated. In addition, a series of in vitro invasion experiments using six representatives of the E colicin group was undertaken, together with the estimation of the growth rates and colicinogenic characteristics of the strains. Growth rates among the strains varied by up to 44%. There were 14-fold differences among strains in their lysis rates and there were up to 10-fold differences in the amount of colicin produced per lysed cell. The in vitro serial transfer invasion experiments revealed that regardless of initial frequency all colicinogenic strains succeeded in displacing the sensitive cell populations. The amount of time required for the colicin-sensitive cell population to be displaced declined as the initial frequency of the colicinogenic population increased and strains producing higher titres of colicin tended to displace the sensitive strain more rapidly. Overall, the observed dynamics of the invasion of colicinogenic strains was adequately described by the theoretical model. However, despite there being substantial differences among the strains in their growth rates and colicinogenic characteristics there were relatively few differences, observed or predicted, in the invasion dynamics of the six colicinogenic strains. These results suggest that the characteristics of different colicinogenic strains cannot be used to explain the extensive variation in the relative abundance of different colicins in natural populations of bacteria.

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