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.
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - 16 Aug 2011|
- Bacterial communication
- Diversifying selection