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Understanding policing as a mechanism of cheater control in cooperating bacteria


Wechsler, Tobias; Kümmerli, Rolf; Dobay, Akos (2019). Understanding policing as a mechanism of cheater control in cooperating bacteria. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 32(5):412-424.

Abstract

Policing occurs in insect, animal and human societies, where it evolved as a mecha-nism maintaining cooperation. Recently, it has been suggested that policing might even be relevant in enforcing cooperation in much simpler organisms such as bacte-ria. Here, we used individual- based modelling to develop an evolutionary concept for policing in bacteria and identify the conditions under which it can be adaptive. We modelled interactions between cooperators, producing a beneficial public good, cheaters, exploiting the public good without contributing to it, and public good- producing policers that secrete a toxin to selectively target cheaters. We found that toxin- mediated policing is favoured when (a) toxins are potent and durable, (b) toxins are cheap to produce, (c) cell and public good diffusion is intermediate, and (d) toxins diffuse farther than the public good. Although our simulations identify the parameter space where toxin- mediated policing can evolve, we further found that policing de-cays when the genetic linkage between public good and toxin production breaks. This is because policing is itself a public good, offering protection to toxin- resistant mutants that still produce public goods, yet no longer invest in toxins. Our work thus highlights that not only specific environmental conditions are required for toxin- mediated policing to evolve, but also strong genetic linkage between the expression of public goods, toxins and toxin resistance is essential for this mechanism to remain evolutionarily stable in the long run.

Abstract

Policing occurs in insect, animal and human societies, where it evolved as a mecha-nism maintaining cooperation. Recently, it has been suggested that policing might even be relevant in enforcing cooperation in much simpler organisms such as bacte-ria. Here, we used individual- based modelling to develop an evolutionary concept for policing in bacteria and identify the conditions under which it can be adaptive. We modelled interactions between cooperators, producing a beneficial public good, cheaters, exploiting the public good without contributing to it, and public good- producing policers that secrete a toxin to selectively target cheaters. We found that toxin- mediated policing is favoured when (a) toxins are potent and durable, (b) toxins are cheap to produce, (c) cell and public good diffusion is intermediate, and (d) toxins diffuse farther than the public good. Although our simulations identify the parameter space where toxin- mediated policing can evolve, we further found that policing de-cays when the genetic linkage between public good and toxin production breaks. This is because policing is itself a public good, offering protection to toxin- resistant mutants that still produce public goods, yet no longer invest in toxins. Our work thus highlights that not only specific environmental conditions are required for toxin- mediated policing to evolve, but also strong genetic linkage between the expression of public goods, toxins and toxin resistance is essential for this mechanism to remain evolutionarily stable in the long run.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Legal Medicine
07 Faculty of Science > Department of Quantitative Biomedicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:510 Mathematics
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 May 2019
Deposited On:16 Dec 2019 11:58
Last Modified:22 Apr 2020 21:13
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:1010-061X
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/jeb.13423
PubMed ID:6520251
Project Information:
  • : FunderH2020
  • : Grant ID681295
  • : Project TitleBactInd - Bacterial cooperation at the individual cell level
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPP00P3_139164
  • : Project TitleCooperation and competition in bacteria: analyses from the single-cell to the community level

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