Bacteriocins and the assembly of natural Pseudomonas fluorescens populations.
Bruce JB., West SA., Griffin AS.
When competing for space and resources, bacteria produce toxins known as bacteriocins to gain an advantage over competitors. Recent studies in the laboratory have confirmed theoretical predictions that bacteriocin production can determine coexistence, by eradicating sensitive competitors or driving the emergence of resistant genotypes. However, there is currently limited evidence that bacteriocin-mediated competition influences the coexistence and distribution of genotypes in natural environments, and what factors drive interactions towards inhibition remain unclear. Using natural soil populations of Pseudomonas fluorescens, we assessed the ability of the isolates to inhibit one another with respect to spatial proximity in the field, genetic similarity and niche overlap. The majority of isolates were found to produce bacteriocins; however, widespread resistance between coexisting isolates meant relatively few interactions resulted in inhibition. When inhibition did occur, it occurred more frequently between ecologically similar isolates. However, in contrast with results from other natural populations, we found no relationship between the frequency of inhibition and the genetic similarity of competitors. Our results suggest that bacteriocin production plays an important role in mediating competition over resources in natural settings and, by selecting for isolates resistant to local bacteriocin production, can influence the assembly of natural populations of P. fluorescens.