Horizontal gene transfer is a major force in bacterial evolution. Mobile genetic elements are responsible for much of horizontal gene transfer and also carry beneficial cargo genes. Uncovering strategies used by mobile genetic elements to benefit host cells is crucial for understanding their stability and spread in populations. We describe a benefit that ICEBs1, an integrative and conjugative element of Bacillus subtilis, provides to its host cells. Activation of ICEBs1 conferred a frequency-dependent selective advantage to host cells during two different developmental processes: biofilm formation and sporulation. These benefits were due to inhibition of biofilm-associated gene expression and delayed sporulation by ICEBs1-containing cells, enabling them to exploit their neighbors and grow more prior to development. A single ICEBs1 gene, devI (formerly ydcO), was both necessary and sufficient for inhibition of development. Manipulation of host developmental programs allows ICEBs1 to increase host fitness, thereby increasing propagation of the element.
All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files. Source data files have been provided for all figures
- Alan D Grossman
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Petra Anne Levin, Washington University in St. Louis, United States
© 2021, Jones et al.
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