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A passive mutualistic interaction promotes the evolution of spatial structure within microbial populations

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Marchal Marie, Derksen Selina, Panke Sven, Ackermann Martin, Johnson David R,
Project Metabolic specialization and the causes of diversity in microbial ecosystems
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal BMC Evolutionary Biology
Volume (Issue) 17
Page(s) 106
Title of proceedings BMC Evolutionary Biology

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Background:While mutualistic interactions between different genotypes are pervasive in nature, their evolutionary origin is not clear. The dilemma is that, for mutualistic interactions to emerge and persist, an investment into the partner genotype must pay off: individuals of a first genotype that invest resources to promote the growth of a second genotype must receive a benefit that is not equally accessible to individuals that do not invest. One way for exclusive benefits to emerge is through spatial structure (i.e., physical barriers to the movement of individuals and resources). Results:Here we propose that organisms can evolve their own spatial structure based on physical attachment between individuals, and we hypothesize that attachment evolves when spatial proximity to members of another species is advantageous. We tested this hypothesis using experimental evolution with combinations of E. coli strains that depend on each other to grow. We found that attachment between cells repeatedly evolved within 8 weeks of evolution and observed that many different types of mutations potentially contributed to increased attachment.Conclusions:We postulate a general principle by which passive beneficial interactions between organisms select for attachment, and attachment then provides spatial structure that could be conducive for the evolution of active mutualistic interactions.