The good, the bad, and the tiny : a simple, mechanistic-probabilistic model of virus-nutrient colimitation in microbes
Cael, B. Barry
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For phytoplankton and other microbes, nutrient receptors are often the passages through which viruses invade. This presents a bottom-up vs. top-down, co-limitation scenario; how do these would-be-hosts balance minimizing viral susceptibility with maximizing uptake of limiting nutrient(s)? This question has been addressed in the biological literature on evolutionary timescales for populations, but a shorter timescale, mechanistic perspective is lacking, and marine viral literature suggests the strong influence of additional factors, e.g. host size; while the literature on both nutrient uptake and host-virus interactions is expansive, their intersection, of ubiquitous relevance to marine environments, is understudied. I present a simple, mechanistic model from first principles to analyze the effect of this co-limitation scenario on individual growth, which suggests that in environments with high risk of viral invasion or spatial/temporal heterogeneity, an individual host’s growth rate may be optimized with respect to receptor coverage, producing top-down selective pressure on short timescales. The model has general applicability, is suggestive of hypotheses for empirical exploration, and can be extended to theoretical studies of more complex behaviors and systems.
© The Author(s), 2015. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in PLoS One 10 (2015): e0143299, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143299.
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