Session T42: Focus Session: Evolutionary Systems Biology III - Evolutionary Games

2:30 PM–5:06 PM, Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Room: 156C

Sponsoring Units: DBIO GSNP
Chair: Ralf Bundschuh, Ohio State University

Abstract ID: BAPS.2012.MAR.T42.1

Abstract: T42.00001 : Bacterial tower of Babel --How cheating and lying diversify bacterial communication

2:30 PM–3:06 PM

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  Avigdor Eldar
    (Tel-Aviv University, Department of molecular microbiology and biotechnology)

In microbial ``quorum sensing'' (QS) communication systems, microbes produce and respond to a signaling molecule, enabling a cooperative response at high cell densities. Many species of bacteria show fast, intraspecific, evolutionary divergence of their QS pathway specificity---signaling molecules activate cognate receptors in the same strain but fail to activate, and sometimes inhibit, those of other strains. Despite many molecular studies, it has remained unclear how a signaling molecule and receptor can coevolve, what maintains diversity, and what drives the evolution of cross-inhibition. Here I use mathematical analysis to show that when QS controls the production of extracellular enzymes ---``public goods''---diversification can readily evolve. Coevolution is positively selected by cycles of alternating ``cheating'' receptor mutations and ``cheating immunity'' signaling mutations. The maintenance of diversity and the evolution of cross-inhibition between strains are facilitated by facultative cheating between the competing strains. My results suggest a role for complex social strategies in the long-term evolution of QS systems. More generally, my model of QS divergence suggests a form of kin recognition where different kin types coexist in unstructured populations.

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