Metabolic competition as a driver of bacterial population structure.
Watkins ER., Maiden MC., Gupta S.
Understanding the processes whereby diversity arises and is maintained in pathogen populations is pivotal for designing disease control interventions. A particular problem is the maintenance of strain structure in bacterial pathogen populations despite frequent genetic exchange. Although several theoretical frameworks have been put forward to explain this widespread phenomenon, few have focused on the role of genes encoding metabolic functions, despite an increasing recognition of their importance in pathogenesis and transmission. In this article, we review the literature for evidence of metabolic niches within the host and discuss theoretical frameworks which examine ecological interactions between metabolic genes. We contend that metabolic competition is an important phenomenon which contributes to the maintenance of population structure and diversity of many bacterial pathogens.