Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tight-knit Family: Even Microbes Favor Their Own Kin

Date:
August 24, 2006
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
New research in this week's issue of Nature finds that even the simplest of social creatures -- single-celled amoebae -- have the ability not only to recognize their own family members but also to selectively discriminate in favor of them. The study by Rice University biologists provides further proof of the surprisingly sophisticated social behavior of microbes, which have been shown to exhibit levels of cooperation more typically associated with animals.

New research published by Rice University biologists in this week's issue of Nature finds that even the simplest of social creatures - single-celled amoebae - have the ability not only to recognize their own family members but also to selectively discriminate in favor of them.

The study provides further proof of the surprisingly sophisticated social behavior of microbes, which have been shown to exhibit levels of cooperation more typically associated with animals.

"By recognizing kin, a social microbe can direct altruistic behavior towards its relatives," said postdoctoral researcher Natasha Mehdiabadi, the lead author of the study.

Recognizing one's own family is a common trait among animals - be they chimpanzees, ground squirrels or paper wasps - and because kin recognition can strongly influence cooperative behaviors it can also significantly impact the social evolution of species.

While scientists have repeatedly documented cases of kin recognition, the Rice study is among the first to document the more sophisticated trait of kin discrimination in a social microorganism.

The new study is based on an examination of single-celled Dictyostelium purpureum, a common soil microbe that feeds on bacteria. In the wild, when food runs short, D. purpureum aggregate together by the thousands, forming first into long narrow slugs and then into hair-like fruiting bodies. Resembling miniature mushrooms, these fruiting bodies consist of both a freestanding stalk and the spores that sit atop it. Ultimately, the spores are carried away, usually on the legs of passing creatures, to start the life cycle all over again. But in order to disperse the spores, some of the colony's individuals must altruistically sacrifice themselves in order to make the stalk.

Mehdiabadi and others in the lab of Rice evolutionary biologists Joan Strassmann and David Queller sought to find out whether D. purpureum discriminate by preferentially directing this altruism toward their relatives.

The team collected wild strains of D. purpureum from the Houston Arboretum and took them back to the lab where they were cultured in dishes. In each of 14 experiments, a pair of strains were placed in a dish in equal proportion, and one of the strains in each pair was labeled with a fluorescent dye.

Food was withheld, causing the microbes in each dish to form dozens of slugs and fruiting bodies. Upon observing their social development, the team found that individual fruiting bodies contained predominantly one strain or the other.

"Our experiments ruled out potential differences in developmental timing and showed that these organisms preferentially associate with their own kin," said Strassmann, the Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Professor in Natural Sciences, who also chairs Rice's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

It's unclear how D. purpureum distinguishes relatives from non-relatives, but Mehdiabadi said the process likely relies on a genetic mechanism.

Co-authors of the study include, Gad Shaulsky, associate professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine; Rice technicians Chandra Jack and Tiffany Talley Farnham; Rice graduate student Sara Kalla; and former Rice graduate student Thomas Platt, who's currently at Indiana University.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the W.M. Keck Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Tight-knit Family: Even Microbes Favor Their Own Kin." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 August 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060823184831.htm>.
Rice University. (2006, August 24). Tight-knit Family: Even Microbes Favor Their Own Kin. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060823184831.htm
Rice University. "Tight-knit Family: Even Microbes Favor Their Own Kin." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060823184831.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins