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Horizontal gene transfer and the evolution of bacterial cooperation


Mc Ginty, S E; Rankin, D J; Brown, S P (2011). Horizontal gene transfer and the evolution of bacterial cooperation. Evolution, 65(1):21-32.

Abstract

Bacteria frequently exhibit cooperative behaviors but cooperative strains are vulnerable to invasion by cheater strains that reap the benefits of cooperation but do not perform the cooperative behavior themselves. Bacterial genomes often contain mobile genetic elements such as plasmids. When a gene for cooperative behavior exists on a plasmid, cheaters can be forced to cooperate by infection with this plasmid, rescuing cooperation in a population in which mutation or migration has allowed cheaters to arise. Here we introduce a second plasmid that does not code for cooperation and show that the social dilemma repeats itself at the plasmid level in both within-patch and metapopulation scenarios, and under various scenarios of plasmid incompatibility. Our results suggest that although plasmid carriage of cooperative genes can provide a transient defense against defection in structured environments, plasmid and chromosomal defection remain the only stable strategies in an unstructured environment. We discuss our results in the light of recent bioinformatic evidence that cooperative genes are overrepresented on mobile elements.

Abstract

Bacteria frequently exhibit cooperative behaviors but cooperative strains are vulnerable to invasion by cheater strains that reap the benefits of cooperation but do not perform the cooperative behavior themselves. Bacterial genomes often contain mobile genetic elements such as plasmids. When a gene for cooperative behavior exists on a plasmid, cheaters can be forced to cooperate by infection with this plasmid, rescuing cooperation in a population in which mutation or migration has allowed cheaters to arise. Here we introduce a second plasmid that does not code for cooperation and show that the social dilemma repeats itself at the plasmid level in both within-patch and metapopulation scenarios, and under various scenarios of plasmid incompatibility. Our results suggest that although plasmid carriage of cooperative genes can provide a transient defense against defection in structured environments, plasmid and chromosomal defection remain the only stable strategies in an unstructured environment. We discuss our results in the light of recent bioinformatic evidence that cooperative genes are overrepresented on mobile elements.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:January 2011
Deposited On:06 Dec 2010 16:39
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 14:17
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0014-3820
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1558-5646.2010.01121.x
PubMed ID:20825481

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