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Coexistence of incompatible plasmids in a bacterial population living under a feast and famine regime

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A model is formulated to examine the possibility of (co)existence of plasmids of the same incompatibility and surface exclusion group in a bacterial population living under a feast-and-famine regime. The condition is given under which a growth rate decreasing plasmid can invade a bacterial population. It appears that in case only one plasmid type is present, the frequency of plasmid bearers will tend to a stable equilibrium if the food supply at each growth site gets exhausted and if both plasmid-free and plasmid-bearing bacteria need an equal quantity of food per cell division. If these two conditions are not satisfied, the frequency of plasmid-bearers might oscillate. Two plasmids will sometimes be able to coexist, but only if they follow different survival strategies; one with a high conjugational transfer rate and a lower fitness of its host, and the other with a low transfer rate and a higher host fitness. Coexistence of three plasmids of the same surface exclusion group is impossible.

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Van der Hoeven, N. Coexistence of incompatible plasmids in a bacterial population living under a feast and famine regime. J. Math. Biol. 24, 313–325 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00275640

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Key words

  • Plasmids
  • Competition
  • Batch culture selection