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In order to be transmitted, a pathogen must first successfully colonize and multiply within a host. Ecological principles can be applied to study host-pathogen interactions to predict transmission dynamics. Little is known about the population biology of Salmonella during persistent infection. To define Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium population structure in this context, 129SvJ mice were oral gavaged with a mixture of eight wild-type isogenic tagged Salmonella (WITS) strains. Distinct subpopulations arose within intestinal and systemic tissues after 35 days, and clonal expansion of the cecal and colonic subpopulation was responsible for increases in Salmonella fecal shedding. A co-infection system utilizing differentially marked isogenic strains was developed in which each mouse received one strain orally and the other systemically by intraperitoneal (IP) injection. Co-infections demonstrated that the intestinal subpopulation exerted intraspecies priority effects by excluding systemic S. Typhimurium from colonizing an extracellular niche within the cecum and colon. Importantly, the systemic strain was excluded from these distal gut sites and was not transmitted to naïve hosts. In addition, S. Typhimurium required hydrogenase, an enzyme that mediates acquisition of hydrogen from the gut microbiota, during the first week of infection to exert priority effects in the gut. Thus, early inhibitory priority effects are facilitated by the acquisition of nutrients, which allow S. Typhimurium to successfully compete for a nutritional niche in the distal gut. We also show that intraspecies colonization resistance is maintained by Salmonella Pathogenicity Islands SPI1 and SPI2 during persistent distal gut infection. Thus, important virulence effectors not only modulate interactions with host cells, but are crucial for Salmonella colonization of an extracellular intestinal niche and thereby also shape intraspecies dynamics. We conclude that priority effects and intraspecies competition for colonization niches in the distal gut control Salmonella population assembly and transmission.

Original publication




Journal article


Plos pathog

Publication Date





Animals, Cecum, Colon, Genomic Islands, Mice, Salmonella Infections, Salmonella typhimurium