Biology Faculty Articles

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

3-27-2017

Publication Title

Scientific Reports

ISSN

2045-2322

Volume

7

Issue/No.

440

First Page

1

Last Page

13

Abstract

Cooperation is fundamental to the survival of many bacterial species. Previous studies have shown that spatial structure can both promote and suppress cooperation. Most environments where bacteria are found are periodically disturbed, which can affect the spatial structure of the population. Despite the important role that spatial disturbances play in maintaining ecological relationships, it remains unclear as to how periodic spatial disturbances affect bacteria dependent on cooperation for survival. Here, we use bacteria engineered with a strong Allee effect to investigate how the frequency of periodic spatial disturbances affects cooperation. We show that at intermediate frequencies of spatial disturbance, the ability of the bacterial population to cooperate is perturbed. A mathematical model demonstrates that periodic spatial disturbance leads to a tradeoff between accessing an autoinducer and accessing nutrients, which determines the ability of the bacteria to cooperate. Based on this relationship, we alter the ability of the bacteria to access an autoinducer. We show that increased access to an autoinducer can enhance cooperation, but can also reduce ecological resistance, defined as the ability of a population to resist changes due to disturbance. Our results may have implications in maintaining stability of microbial communities and in the treatment of infectious diseases.

Comments

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

ORCID ID

0000-0002-4807-4979

DOI

10.1038/s41598-017-00588-9

Peer Reviewed

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