Cannibalism and fratricide: mechanisms and raisons d'être

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2007 Mar;5(3):219-29. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro1613.


Cannibalism and fratricide refer to the killing of genetically identical cells (siblings) that was recently documented in two Gram-positive species, Bacillus subtilis and Streptococcus pneumoniae, respectively. Cannibalism occurs during the early stages of sporulation in B. subtilis, whereas fratricide occurs in S. pneumoniae during natural genetic transformation. Here, we compare and contrast these two phenomena and discuss whether these processes are fundamentally different from the more traditional 'chemical warfare' among bacteria.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / biosynthesis
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacillus subtilis / physiology*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Bacterial Toxins / biosynthesis
  • Bacterial Toxins / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / physiology
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / physiology*
  • Transformation, Genetic


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Toxins