Cross-kingdom chemical communication drives a heritable, mutually beneficial prion-based transformation of metabolism

Cell. 2014 Aug 28;158(5):1083-1093. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.07.025.


In experimental science, organisms are usually studied in isolation, but in the wild, they compete and cooperate in complex communities. We report a system for cross-kingdom communication by which bacteria heritably transform yeast metabolism. An ancient biological circuit blocks yeast from using other carbon sources in the presence of glucose. [GAR(+)], a protein-based epigenetic element, allows yeast to circumvent this "glucose repression" and use multiple carbon sources in the presence of glucose. Some bacteria secrete a chemical factor that induces [GAR(+)]. [GAR(+)] is advantageous to bacteria because yeast cells make less ethanol and is advantageous to yeast because their growth and long-term viability is improved in complex carbon sources. This cross-kingdom communication is broadly conserved, providing a compelling argument for its adaptive value. By heritably transforming growth and survival strategies in response to the selective pressures of life in a biological community, [GAR(+)] presents a unique example of Lamarckian inheritance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Fermentation
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Prions / metabolism*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism*
  • Staphylococcus hominis / genetics
  • Staphylococcus hominis / metabolism*
  • Wine / microbiology
  • Yeasts / genetics
  • Yeasts / metabolism


  • Prions
  • Glucose