Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 81 (1-4), 155-64

Experimental Social Evolution With Myxococcus Xanthus


Experimental Social Evolution With Myxococcus Xanthus

Gregory J Velicer et al. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek.


Genetically-based social behaviors are subject to evolutionary change in response to natural selection. Numerous microbial systems provide not only the opportunity to understand the genetic mechanisms underlying specific social interactions, but also to observe evolutionary changes in sociality over short time periods. Here we summarize experiments in which behaviors of the social bacterium Myxococcus xanthus changed extensively during evolutionary adaptation to two relatively asocial laboratory environments. M. xanthus moves cooperatively, exhibits cooperative multicellular development upon starvation and also appears to prey cooperatively on other bacteria. Replicate populations of M. xanthus were evolved in both structured (agar plate) and unstructured (liquid) environments that contained abundant resources. The importance of social cooperation for evolutionary fitness in these habitats was limited by the absence of positive selection for starvation-induced spore production or predatory efficiency. Evolved populations showed major losses in all measured categories of social proficiency- motility, predation, fruiting ability, and sporulation. Moreover, several evolved genotypes were observed to exploit the social behavior of their ancestral parent when mixed together during the developmental process. These experiments that resulted in both socially defective and socially exploitative genotypes demonstrate the power of laboratory selection experiments for studying social evolution at the microbial level. Results from additional selection experiments that place positive selection pressure on social phenotypes can be integrated with direct study of natural populations to increase our understanding of principles that underlie the evolution of microbial social behavior.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 8 PubMed Central articles

  • Evolution of Cooperation and Control of Cheating in a Social Microbe
    JE Strassmann et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108 Suppl 2 (Suppl 2), 10855-62. PMID 21690338. - Review
    Much of what we know about the evolution of altruism comes from animals. Here, we show that studying a microbe has yielded unique insights, particularly in understanding …
  • Comparative Analysis of Myxococcus Predation on Soil Bacteria
    AD Morgan et al. Appl Environ Microbiol 76 (20), 6920-7. PMID 20802074.
    Predator-prey relationships among prokaryotes have received little attention but are likely to be important determinants of the composition, structure, and dynamics of mi …
  • Beyond Society: The Evolution of Organismality
    DC Queller et al. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 364 (1533), 3143-55. PMID 19805423.
    The evolution of organismality is a social process. All organisms originated from groups of simpler units that now show high cooperation among the parts and are nearly fr …
  • The Pseudomonas Quinolone Signal (PQS) Balances Life and Death in Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Populations
    S Häussler et al. PLoS Pathog 4 (9), e1000166. PMID 18818733.
    When environmental conditions deteriorate and become inhospitable, generic survival strategies for populations of bacteria may be to enter a dormant state that slows down …
  • Cheating on the Edge
    LA Dugatkin et al. PLoS One 3 (7), e2763. PMID 18648645.
    We present the results of an individual agent-based model of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Our model examines antibiotic resistance when two strategies exist: "produ …
See all "Cited by" articles

Publication types

MeSH terms

LinkOut - more resources