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Cooperation among Microorganisms

Author(s): Wingreen, Ned S.; Levin, Simon A.

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Abstract: One of the organizing principles of life on Earth is that cells cooperate. This is evident in the case of multicellular organisms, from nematodes to humans, but it also appears to apply widely among single-celled organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and amoeba. In many cases, the label “single-celled” applies to only part of the life cycle of these organisms. For example, the model amoeba Dictyostelium discodium is single-celled under conditions of nutritional abundance, but upon starvation, it communicates to form aggregates that subsequently pass through multicellular stages of slug and fruiting body. Indeed, in light of recent discoveries of communication among bacteria and the importance and prevalence of bacterial biofilms, “single-celled” may turn out to be a misnomer even for these organisms. Here we highlight some of the better-studied examples of cooperation among microorganisms and attempt to identify some of the important questions in this emerging field. Understanding cooperation among microorganisms presents conceptual and mathematical challenges at the interface of evolutionary biology and the theory of emergent properties of independent agents, two of the most exciting areas in modern mathematical biology.
Publication Date: 12-Sep-2006
Electronic Publication Date: 12-Sep-2006
Citation: Wingreen, Ned S, Levin, Simon A. (2006). Cooperation among Microorganisms. PLoS Biology, 4 (9), e299 - e299. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0040299
DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0040299
EISSN: 1545-7885
Pages: e299 - e299
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: PLoS Biology
Version: Final published version. This is an open access article.

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