Evolutionary adaptation of an RNA bacteriophage to the simultaneous increase in the within-host and extracellular temperatures

Lazaro, E., Arribas, M., Cabanillas, L., Roman, I., Acosta, E. 2018. Evolutionary adaptation of an RNA bacteriophage to the simultaneous increase in the within-host and extracellular temperatures. Scientific Reports 8, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-26443-z

Bacteriophages are the most numerous biological entities on Earth. They are on the basis of most ecosystems, regulating the diversity and abundance of bacterial populations and contributing to the nutrient and energy cycles. Bacteriophages have two well differentiated phases in their life cycle, one extracellular, in which they behave as inert particles, and other one inside their hosts, where they replicate to give rise to a progeny. In both phases they are exposed to environmental conditions that often act as selective pressures that limit both their survival in the environment and their ability to replicate, two fitness traits that frequently cannot be optimised simultaneously. In this study we have analysed the evolutionary ability of an RNA bacteriophage, the bacteriophage Q beta, when it is confronted with a temperature increase that affects both the extracellular and the intracellular media. Our results show that Q beta can optimise its survivability when exposed to short-term high temperature extracellular heat shocks, as well as its replicative ability at higher-than-optimal temperature. Mutations responsible for simultaneous adaptation were the same as those selected when adaptation to each condition proceeded separately, showing the absence of important trade-offs between survival and reproduction in this virus.

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