Conceptualizing microbe–plasmid communities as complex adaptive systems

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Plasmids shape microbial communities’ diversity, structure, and function. Nevertheless, we lack a mechanistic understanding of how community structure and dynamics emerge from local microbe–plasmid interactions and coevolution. Addressing this gap is challenging because multiple processes operate simultaneously at multiple levels of organization. For example, immunity operates between a plasmid and a cell, but incompatibility mechanisms regulate coexistence between plasmids. Conceptualizing microbe–plasmid communities as complex adaptive systems is a promising approach to overcoming these challenges. I illustrate how agent-based evolutionary modeling, extended by network analysis, can be used to quantify the relative importance of local processes governing community dynamics. These theoretical developments can advance our understanding of plasmid ecology and evolution, especially when combined with empirical data.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTrends in Microbiology
StateAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2023


  • agent-based models
  • community dynamics
  • ecological networks
  • microbial ecology
  • mobile genetic elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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