Bacteria are inherently social organisms whose actions should ideally be studied within an interactive ecological context. We show that the exchange and modification of natural products enables two unrelated bacteria to defend themselves against a common predator. Amoebal predation is a major cause of death in soil bacteria and thus it exerts a strong selective pressure to evolve defensive strategies. A systematic analysis of binary combinations of coisolated bacteria revealed strains that were individually susceptible to predation but together killed their predator. This cooperative defense relies on a Pseudomonas species producing syringafactin, a lipopeptide, which induces the production of peptidases in a Paenibacillus strain. These peptidases then degrade the innocuous syringafactin into compounds, which kill the predator. A combination of bioprospecting, coculture experiments, genome modification, and transcriptomics unravel this novel natural product-based defense strategy.
Keywords: Pseudomonas; amoebae; cooperative defense; lipopeptides; natural products.
Copyright © 2021 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.