Weitz Group @ Georgia Tech Theoretical Ecology and Quantitative Biology

Viruses and collective decisions regarding cell fate

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We have developed a mathematical theory of how bacterial viruses can make collective decisions concerning the fate of infected cells. For many bacterial viruses, the choice of whether to kill host cells or enter a latent state depends on the multiplicity of coinfection. Coinfection introduces a variable number of phage DNA copies into a host cell which direct the host to produce phage mRNAs and proteins. The distinct phage genomes are coupled via a common pool of transcriptional regulators. When viral regulation of cell fate includes nonlinear feedback loops, this coupling can lead to dramatic changes in steady state gene expression. Hence, we suggest that deterministic decisions can be reached, e.g.,lysis or latency, depending on the cellular multiplicity of infection, in agreement with molecular studies of the decision circuit within phage lambda.

Read the full article online on Biophysical Journal BioFast website.

Read Nature's coverage: Virology: Collective calm.