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Optimality models have a checkered history in evolutionary biology. While optimality models have been successful in providing valuable insight into the evolution of a wide variety of biological traits, a common objection is that optimality models are overly simplistic and ignore organismal genetics. We revisit evolutionary optimization in the context of a major bacteriophage life history trait, lysis time. Lysis time refers to the period spanning phage infection of a host cell and its lysis, whereupon phage progenies are released. Lysis time, therefore, directly determines phage fecundity assuming progeny assembly does not exhaust host resources prior to lysis. Noting that previous tests of lysis time optimality rely on batch culture, we implemented a quasi-continuous culture system to observe productivity of a panel of isogenic phage λ genotypes differing in lysis time. We report that under our experimental conditions, λ phage productivity is maximized around optimal lysis times ranging from 60 to 100 min, and λ wildtype strain falls within this range. It would appear that natural selection on phage λ lysis time uncovered a set of genetic solutions that optimized progeny production in its ecological milieu relative to alternative genotypes. We discuss this finding in light of recent results that lysis time variation is also minimized in the strains with lysis times closer to the λ wild-type strain.


Originally published as: Kannoly, Sherin, Abhyudai Singh, John J. Dennehy. "An Optimal Lysis Time Maximizes Bacteriophage Fitness in Quasi-Continuous Culture." mBio, vol. 13, no. 2, 2022, doi: 10.1128/mbio.03593-21

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