Bacteriophages can promote horizontal gene transfer in bacteria through generalized transduction, in which bacterial DNA, instead of viral DNA, is packaged into a virion. Traditionally, generalized transduction is considered a mistake from the point of view of the bacteriophages, since transducing particles do not propagate the viral DNA. In this collaborative work with two other research groups, we provide evidence for the adaptive potential of generalized transduction for the bacteriophages themselves .
Using Staphylococcus aureus as an experimental organism and the computational model of microbial evolution developed in our group (eVIVALDI ), we show that in environments where the survival of bacteria depends on their fast adaptation, the eradication of bacterial hosts led to the eradication of non-transducing, or virulent, bacteriophages as well. On the other hand, temperate transducing bacteriophages provide a mechanism for the acquisition of an antibiotic resistance gene that led to the survival of their hosts and to their own survival as lysogens within the adapted hosts.
Our results suggest that generalized transduction is a mutualistic trait that has evolved in association with the lysogenic lifestyle of bacteriophages, both to their and their hosts’ benefit.
 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1007888 (2019)
 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-39773-3 (2019)