Antagonism between killer yeast strains as an experimental model for biological nucleation dynamics


Antagonistic interactions are widespread in the microbial world and affect microbial evolutionary dynamics. Natural microbial communities often display spatial structure, which affects biological interactions, but much of what we know about microbial warfare comes from laboratory studies of well-mixed communities. To overcome this limitation, we manipulated two killer strains of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, expressing different toxins, to independently control the rate at which they released their toxins. We developed mathematical models that predict the experimental dynamics of competition between toxin-producing strains in both well-mixed and spatially structured populations. In both situations, we experimentally verified theory's prediction that a stronger antagonist can invade a weaker one only if the initial invading population exceeds a critical size. Finally, we found that toxin-resistant cells and weaker killers arose in spatially structured competitions between toxin-producing strains, suggesting that adaptive evolution can affect the outcome of microbial antagonism.
Last updated on 09/10/2020