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Data from: Plasmid stability is enhanced by higher-frequency pulses of positive selection


Stevenson, Cagla H. et al. (2018), Data from: Plasmid stability is enhanced by higher-frequency pulses of positive selection, Dryad, Dataset,


Plasmids accelerate bacterial adaptation by sharing ecologically important traits between lineages. However, explaining plasmid stability in bacterial populations is challenging due to their associated costs. Previous theoretical and experimental studies suggest that pulsed positive selection may explain plasmid stability by favouring gene mobility and promoting compensatory evolution to ameliorate plasmid cost. Here we test how the frequency of pulsed positive selection affected the dynamics of a mercury resistance plasmid, pQBR103, in experimental populations of Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25. Plasmid dynamics varied according to the frequency of Hg2+ positive selection: in the absence of Hg2+ plasmids declined to low frequency whereas pulses of Hg2+ selection allowed plasmids to sweep to high prevalence. Compensatory evolution to ameliorate the cost of plasmid carriage was widespread across the entire range of Hg2+ selection regimes, including both constant and pulsed Hg2+ selection. Consistent with theoretical predictions, gene mobility via conjugation appeared to play a greater role in promoting plasmid stability under low-frequency pulses of Hg2+ selection. However, upon removal of Hg2+ selection, plasmids which had evolved under low-frequency pulse selective regimes declined over time. Our findings suggest that temporally variable selection environments, such as those created during antibiotic treatments, may help to explain the stability of mobile plasmid-encoded resistance.

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