The genetic architecture underlying prey-dependent performance in a microbial predator

Balint Stewart, Nicole Gruenheit, Christopher R L Thompson, Amy Baldwin, Adrian J. Harwood, Rex Chisholm, Daniel E. Rozen, Jason Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (SciVal)


Natural selection should favour generalist predators that outperform specialists across all prey types. Two genetic solutions could explain why intraspecific variation in predatory performance is, nonetheless, widespread: mutations beneficial on one prey type are costly on another (antagonistic pleiotropy), or mutational effects are prey-specific, which weakens selection, allowing variation to persist (relaxed selection). To understand the relative importance of these alternatives, we characterised natural variation in predatory performance in the microbial predator Dictyostelium discoideum. We found widespread nontransitive differences among strains in predatory success across different bacterial prey, which can facilitate stain coexistence in multi-prey environments. To understand the genetic basis, we developed methods for high throughput experimental evolution on different prey (REMI-seq). Most mutations (~77%) had prey-specific effects, with very few (~4%) showing antagonistic pleiotropy. This highlights the potential for prey-specific effects to dilute selection, which would inhibit the purging of variation and prevent the emergence of an optimal generalist predator.
Original languageEnglish
Article number319
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date14 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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