Bacteria-phage interactions in natural environments

Adv Appl Microbiol. 2014;89:135-83. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-800259-9.00004-4.


Phages are considered the most abundant and diverse biological entities on Earth and are notable not only for their sheer abundance, but also for their influence on bacterial hosts. In nature, bacteria-phage relationships are complex and have far-reaching consequences beyond particular pairwise interactions, influencing everything from bacterial virulence to eukaryotic fitness to the carbon cycle. In this review, we examine bacteria and phage distributions in nature first by highlighting biogeographic patterns and nonhost environmental influences on phage distribution, then by considering the ways in which phages and bacteria interact, emphasizing phage life cycles, bacterial responses to phage infection, and the complex patterns of phage host specificity. Finally, we discuss phage impacts on bacterial abundance, genetics, and physiology, and further aim to clarify distinctions between current theoretical models and point out areas in need of future research.

Keywords: Bacteriophage; Coevolution; Frequency-dependent selection; Kill the Winner; Microbial diversity; Phage therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / virology*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Bacteriophages / genetics
  • Bacteriophages / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Environment
  • Host Specificity