Prosocial behavior is ubiquitous in nature despite the relative fitness costs carried by cooperative individuals. However, the stability of cooperation in populations is fragile and often maintained through enforcement. We propose that homologous recombination provides such a mechanism in bacteria. Using an agent-based model of recombination in bacteria playing a public goods game, we demonstrate how changes in recombination rates affect the proportion of cooperating cells. In our model, recombination converts cells to a different strategy, either freeloading (cheaters) or cooperation, based on the strategies of neighboring cells and recombination rate. Increasing the recombination rate expands the parameter space in which cooperators outcompete freeloaders. However, increasing the recombination rate alone is neither sufficient nor necessary. Intermediate benefits of cooperation, lower population viscosity, and greater population size can promote the evolution of cooperation from within populations of cheaters. Our findings demonstrate how recombination influences the persistence of cooperative behavior in bacteria.
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Lee, Isaiah Paolo A.; Omar Tonsi Eldakar; J. Peter Gogarten; and Cheryl P. Andam. 2023. "Recombination as an Enforcement Mechanism of Prosocial Behavior in Cooperating Bacteria." iScience 26, (): 107344. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2023.107344.