Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of procbThe Royal Society PublishingProceedings BAboutBrowse by SubjectAlertsFree Trial
Proc Biol Sci. 2004 July 22; 271(1547): 1529–1535.
PMCID: PMC1691756

Bacteriocins, spite and virulence.


There has been much interest in using social evolution theory to predict the damage to a host from parasite infection, termed parasite virulence. Most of this work has focused on how high kinship between the parasites infecting a host can select for more prudent exploitation of the host, leading to a negative relationship between virulence and parasite kinship. However, it has also been shown that if parasites can cooperate to overcome the host, then high parasite kinship within hosts can select for greater cooperation and higher growth rates, hence leading to a positive relationship between virulence and parasite kinship. We examine the impact of a spiteful behaviour, chemical (bacteriocin) warfare between microbes, on the evolution of virulence, and find a new relationship: virulence is maximized when the frequency of kin among parasites' social partners is low or high, and is minimized at intermediate values. This emphasizes how biological details can fundamentally alter the qualitative nature of theoretical predictions made by models of parasite virulence.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (129K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Bremermann HJ, Pickering J. A game-theoretical model of parasite virulence. J Theor Biol. 1983 Feb 7;100(3):411–426. [PubMed]
  • Brown Sam P, Hochberg Michael E, Grenfell Bryan T. Does multiple infection select for raised virulence? Trends Microbiol. 2002 Sep;10(9):401–405. [PubMed]
  • Chao L, Levin BR. Structured habitats and the evolution of anticompetitor toxins in bacteria. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1981 Oct;78(10):6324–6328. [PubMed]
  • Chao L, Hanley KA, Burch CL, Dahlberg C, Turner PE. Kin selection and parasite evolution: higher and lower virulence with hard and soft selection. Q Rev Biol. 2000 Sep;75(3):261–275. [PubMed]
  • Cheung J, Danna KJ, O'Connor EM, Price LB, Shand RF. Isolation, sequence, and expression of the gene encoding halocin H4, a bacteriocin from the halophilic archaeon Haloferax mediterranei R4. J Bacteriol. 1997 Jan;179(2):548–551. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Czárán Tamás L, Hoekstra Rolf F. Killer-sensitive coexistence in metapopulations of micro-organisms. Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Jul 7;270(1522):1373–1378. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Czárán Tamás L, Hoekstra Rolf F, Pagie Ludo. Chemical warfare between microbes promotes biodiversity. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Jan 22;99(2):786–790. [PubMed]
  • Davies CM, Fairbrother E, Webster JP. Mixed strain schistosome infections of snails and the evolution of parasite virulence. Parasitology. 2002 Jan;124(Pt 1):31–38. [PubMed]
  • Day Troy, Burns James G. A consideration of patterns of virulence arising from host-parasite coevolution. Evolution. 2003 Mar;57(3):671–676. [PubMed]
  • Frank SA. A kin selection model for the evolution of virulence. Proc Biol Sci. 1992 Dec 22;250(1329):195–197. [PubMed]
  • Frank SA. Models of parasite virulence. Q Rev Biol. 1996 Mar;71(1):37–78. [PubMed]
  • Gandon S, Mackinnon MJ, Nee S, Read AF. Imperfect vaccines and the evolution of pathogen virulence. Nature. 2001 Dec 13;414(6865):751–756. [PubMed]
  • Ganusov Vitaly V, Antia Rustom. Trade-offs and the evolution of virulence of microparasites: do details matter? Theor Popul Biol. 2003 Sep;64(2):211–220. [PubMed]
  • Hamilton WD. Extraordinary sex ratios. A sex-ratio theory for sex linkage and inbreeding has new implications in cytogenetics and entomology. Science. 1967 Apr 28;156(3774):477–488. [PubMed]
  • Hamilton WD. Selfish and spiteful behaviour in an evolutionary model. Nature. 1970 Dec 19;228(5277):1218–1220. [PubMed]
  • Herre EA. Population structure and the evolution of virulence in nematode parasites of fig wasps. Science. 1993 Mar 5;259(5100):1442–1445. [PubMed]
  • Hurst LD. The evolution of cytoplasmic incompatibility or when spite can be successful. J Theor Biol. 1991 Jan 21;148(2):269–277. [PubMed]
  • Kerr Benjamin, Riley Margaret A, Feldman Marcus W, Bohannan Brendan J M. Local dispersal promotes biodiversity in a real-life game of rock-paper-scissors. Nature. 2002 Jul 11;418(6894):171–174. [PubMed]
  • Pen I. Reproductive effort in viscous populations. Evolution. 2000 Feb;54(1):293–297. [PubMed]
  • Read AF, Taylor LH. The ecology of genetically diverse infections. Science. 2001 May 11;292(5519):1099–1102. [PubMed]
  • Riley MA, Gordon DM. The ecological role of bacteriocins in bacterial competition. Trends Microbiol. 1999 Mar;7(3):129–133. [PubMed]
  • Riley Margaret A, Wertz John E. Bacteriocins: evolution, ecology, and application. Annu Rev Microbiol. 2002;56:117–137. [PubMed]
  • Riley MA, Goldstone CM, Wertz JE, Gordon D. A phylogenetic approach to assessing the targets of microbial warfare. J Evol Biol. 2003 Jul;16(4):690–697. [PubMed]
  • Schjørring Solveig, Koella Jacob C. Sub-lethal effects of pathogens can lead to the evolution of lower virulence in multiple infections. Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Jan 22;270(1511):189–193. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Schmitt Manfred J, Breinig Frank. The viral killer system in yeast: from molecular biology to application. FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2002 Aug;26(3):257–276. [PubMed]
  • Taylor PD. Inclusive fitness arguments in genetic models of behaviour. J Math Biol. 1996;34(5-6):654–674. [PubMed]
  • Taylor PD, Frank SA. How to make a kin selection model. J Theor Biol. 1996 May 7;180(1):27–37. [PubMed]
  • van Baalen M, Sabelis MW. The scope for virulence management: a comment on Ewald's view on the evolution of virulence. Trends Microbiol. 1995 Nov;3(11):414–417. [PubMed]
  • West Stuart A, Buckling Angus. Cooperation, virulence and siderophore production in bacterial parasites. Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Jan 7;270(1510):37–44. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences are provided here courtesy of The Royal Society