evolving M. xanthus

Species that live in a predator-prey relationship are in a constant battle for survival: the prey needs to evolve physical traits (features) that allow it to escape the predator; this in turn will induce the predator to evolve better skills to catch the prey.

In animals this can mean prey becomes faster or camouflages better or evolves other defensive strategies to avoid being killed and eaten by a predator.

In the bacterial world, there are also predators that kill and live from other bacteria, archaea or even fungi. Myxococcus xanthus is a famous example, which kills and consumes other such species. M. xanthus is a social bacterium. It hunts in the group (wolf-pack hunting) and has a complex life cycle, depending on the availability of prey. However, M. xanthus will not be similarly efficient with all types of prey, as prey-bacteria will also have different defense mechanisms at their hand. While it can easily eat E. coli, it might not be so successful with other types of bacteria.

evolving M. xanthus prey bacteria

We are interested in the co-evolution of M. xanthus and its prey. When we subject prey to M. xanthus, what type of defense mechanisms will it evolve? When we subject M. xanthus to resistant prey, will it evolve better hunting abilities? In order to address this, we combine co-evolution experiments of predator-prey for 100s of generations with genome and transcriptome sequencing to identify the molecular players involved in predator and prey efficiency.

This work is done in very close collaboration with the lab of Tam Mignot (LCB, Marseille), one of the leading expert in Myxococcus hunting behaviour. It is funded in great parts by CENTURI.