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Community diversity and habitat structure shape the repertoire of extracellular proteins in bacteria

Nature Communications Marc Garcia-Garcera & Eduardo P. C. Rocha

We test the hypothesis that the frequency and cost of extracellular proteins produced by bacteria, which often depend on cooperative processes, vary with habitat structure and community diversity. The integration of the environmental distribution of bacteria (using 16S datasets) and their genomes shows that bacteria living in more structured habitats encode more extracellular proteins. In contrast, the effect of community diversity depends on protein function: it’s positive for proteins implicated in antagonistic interactions and negative for those involved in nutrient acquisition. Extracellular proteins are costly and endure stronger selective pressure for low cost and for low diffusivity in less structured habitats and in more diverse communities. Finally, Bacteria found in multiple types of habitats, including host-associated generalists, encode more extracellular proteins than niche-restricted bacteria. These results show that ecological variables, notably habitat structure and community diversity, shape the evolution of the repertoires of genes encoding extracellular proteins and thus affect the ability of bacteria to manipulate their environment.

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