Bdellovibrio predation in the presence of decoys: Three-way bacterial interactions revealed by mathematical and experimental analyses

Laura Hobley, John R King, R Elizabeth Sockett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus is a small, gram-negative, motile bacterium that preys upon other gram-negative bacteria, including several known human pathogens. Its predation efficiency is usually studied in pure cultures containing solely B. bacteriovorus and a suitable prey. However, in natural environments, as well as in any possible biomedical uses as an antimicrobial, Bdellovibrio is predatory in the presence of diverse decoys, including live nonsusceptible bacteria, eukaryotic cells, and cell debris. Here we gathered and mathematically modeled data from three-member cultures containing predator, prey, and nonsusceptible bacterial decoys. Specifically, we studied the rate of predation of planktonic late-log-phase Escherichia coli S17-1 prey by B. bacteriovorus HD100, both in the presence and in the absence of Bacillus subtilis nonsporulating strain 671, which acted as a live bacterial decoy. Interestingly, we found that although addition of the live Bacillus decoy did decrease the rate of Bdellovibrio predation in liquid cultures, this addition also resulted in a partially compensatory enhancement of the availability of prey for predation. This effect resulted in a higher final yield of Bdellovibrio than would be predicted for a simple inert decoy. Our mathematical model accounts for both negative and positive effects of predator-prey-decoy interactions in the closed batch environment. In addition, it informs considerations for predator dosing in any future therapeutic applications and sheds some light on considerations for modeling the massively complex interactions of real mixed bacterial populations in nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6757-65
Number of pages9
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Bdellovibrio
  • Food Chain
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria
  • Models, Biological

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