Time-scales modulate optimal lysis-lysogeny decision switches and near-term phage fitness
Temperate phage can initiate lysis or lysogeny after infecting a bacterial host. The genetic switch between lysis and lysogeny is mediated by phage regulatory genes as well as host and environmental factors. Recently, a new class of decision switches was identified in phage of the SPbeta group, mediated by the extracellular release of small, phage-encoded peptides termed arbitrium. Arbitrium peptides can be taken up by bacteria prior to infection, modulating the decision switch in the event of
... subsequent phage infection. Increasing concentration of arbitrium increases the chance that a phage infection will lead to lysogeny, rather than lysis. Although prior work has centered on the molecular mechanisms of arbitrium-induced switching, here we focus on how selective pressures impact the benefits of plasticity in switching responses. In this work, we examine the possible advantages of near-term adaptation of communication-based decision switches used by the SPbeta-like group. We combine a nonlinear population model with a control theoretic approach to evaluate the relationship between a putative phage reaction norm (i.e., the probability of lysogeny as a function of arbitrium) and the near-term time horizon. We show the adaptive potential of communication-based lysis-lysogeny responses and find that optimal switching between lysis to lysogeny increases near-term fitness compared to fixed responses. We further find that plastic responses are robust to the inclusion of cellular-level stochasticity. These findings provide a principled basis to explore the long-term evolution of phage-encoded decision systems mediated by extracellular decision-signaling molecules, and the feedback between phage reaction norms and ecological context.