A new paper from Lanying Zeng, a member of the Center for Phage Technology and the Texas A&M Biochemistry and Biophysics Department has just appeared in Nature Communications. First author on the paper titled “Cell fate decisions emerge as phages cooperate or compete inside their host” is Jimmy Trinh, a Bio/Bio grad student. Critical contributions come from Gabor Balaszi’s lab at SUNY Stony Brook. Jimmy and colleagues examine the process of a bacterial virus (phage lambda) infecting its host, the common gut bacterium E. coli. Using sophisticated fluorescent reporters, Jimmy and colleagues examine how the decision of viral lifestyle occurs at the level of individual viruses infecting single cells. Each virus has a choice when infecting a cell. It can choose to immediately proceed to producing new virus, which results in lysis and death of the bacterium, or it can choose a more passive lifestyle – it can integrate its genome into the E. coli genome and passively replicate as the host cell grows and divides. Many factors modulate this seemingly simple decision, and understanding how such decisions occur at the level of individual molecules inside cells can inform us more broadly how cellular decisions are made. The paper has also been discussed in this Agrilife Today piece.