Phenotypic plasticity of Escherichia coli at initial stage of symbiosis with Dictyostelium discoideum

Biosystems. 2008 Apr;92(1):1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biosystems.2007.10.004. Epub 2007 Nov 9.


We observed the change in the physiological state of Escherichia coli cells at the initial stage for establishing a new symbiotic relationship with Dictyostelium discoideum cells. For the physiological state, we monitored green fluorescence intensity due to a green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene integrated into the chromosome by flow cytometry (FCM). On co-cultivation of the two species, a new population of E. coli cells with increased GFP concentration appeared, and when the formation of mucoidal colonies housing the coexisting two species began, most E. coli cells were from the new population. Further experiments suggest that the physiological change is induced by interaction with D. discoideum cells and is reversible, although the processes of the changes in both directions seem to proceed gradually. The observed phenotypic plasticity, together with natural selection under a co-cultivation environment, may be important for leading to the evolution of a new symbiotic system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dictyostelium / physiology*
  • Escherichia coli / physiology*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Symbiosis*


  • Green Fluorescent Proteins