Trends in Ecology & Evolution
Horizontal gene transfer, cooperation, mobile genetic elements, public goods
Cooperation exists across all scales of biological organization, from genetic elements to complex human societies. Bacteria cooperate by secreting molecules that benefit all individuals in the population (i.e., public goods). Genes associated with cooperation can spread among strains through horizontal gene transfer (HGT). We discuss recent findings on how HGT mediated by mobile genetic elements promotes bacterial cooperation, how cooperation in turn can facilitate more frequent HGT, and how the act of HGT itself may be considered as a form of cooperation. We propose that HGT is an important enforcement mechanism in bacterial populations, thus creating a positive feedback loop that further maintains cooperation. To enforce cooperation, HGT serves as a homogenizing force by transferring the cooperative trait, effectively eliminating cheaters.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.
Lee, Isaiah Paolo A.; Omar T. Eldakar; J. Peter Gogarten; and Cheryl P. Andam. 2021. "Bacterial cooperation through horizontal gene transfer." Trends in Ecology & Evolution , (). doi:10.1016/j.tree.2021.11.006.