Joseph Maa Rose Hills
Investigating mechanisms of nutrient release by phage lysis
Bacteria live in complex and diverse communities ranging from marine environments and soils to the human gut. Improving our understanding of bacterial communities is dependent on deepening our knowledge of how interactions between species affect community function and structure. In one specific interaction, phages participate in these bacterial communities by lysing members and releasing nutrients to the environment. Previous work has explored nutrient sharing interactions on larger scales and research suggests that within marine communities, in algal and phytoplankton populations, viral-mediated cell lysis is responsible for the majority of nutrient turnover.
However, although bacteriophages have been an ubiquitous tool in molecular biology for targeting bacteria and delivering DNA to cells of interest, few studies have looked at a specific mechanism by which nutrient cycling occurs by phage lysis. The Taga lab has developed a simple, genetically tractable E. coli co-culture which was engineered to reciprocally exchange methionine and vitamin B12. I will be using multiple well-characterized phages to examine how viral-mediated lysis in a co-culture of mutually obligate bacteria affects consortium stability and nutrient sharing.