Sidhartha Goyal | Dept. of Physics, University of Toronto
How adaptive immunity constrains composition and fate of large bacterial populations
Features of the CRISPR-Cas system, in which bacteria integrate small segments of phage genome (spacers) into their DNA to neutralize future attack, suggest that its effect is not limited to individual bacteria but may control the fate and structure of whole populations. Emphasizing the population-level impact of the CRISPR-Cas system, recent experiments show that some bacteria regulate CRISPRassociated genes via the quorum sensing (QS) pathway. Here we present a model that shows that from the highly stochastic dynamics of individual spacers under QS control emerges a rank-abundance distribution of spacers that is time-invariant, a surprising prediction that we test with dynamic spacer-tracking data from literature. This distribution depends on the state of the competing phage-bacteria population, which due to QS-based regulation may coexist in multiple stable states that vary significantly in their phage-to-bacterium ratio, a widely used ecological measure to characterize microbial systems.