The authors of an opinion piece appearing in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, on March 27 explain their ideas about the matter. They say microbes that shed necessary functions are getting others to do the hard work for them, an adaptation that can encourage microorganisms to live in cooperative communities.
The Black Queen Hypothesis, as they call it, puts forth the idea that some of the needs of microorganisms can be met by other organisms, enabling microbes that rely on one another to live more efficiently by paring down the genes they have to carry around. In these cases, it would make evolutionary sense for a microbe to lose a burdensome gene for a function it doesn't have to perform for itself. The authors, Richard Lenski and J. Jeffrey Morris of Michigan State University, and Erik Zinser of the University of Tennessee, named the hypothesis for the queen of spades in the game Hearts, in which the usual strategy is to avoid taking this card.
"It's a sweeping hypothesis for how free-living microorganisms evolve to become dependent on each other," says Richard Losick of Harvard University, who edited the paper. "The heart of the hypothesis is that many genetic functions provide products that leak in and out of cells and hence become public goods," he says.
As an illustration of the hypothesis, the authors apply it to one particular microbial system that has been a source of some confusion: one of the most common plankton species in the open ocean, Prochlorococcus, which has a much smaller genome than you might expect. Scientists have wondered how Prochlorococcus has managed to be extremely successful while shedding important genes, including the gene for catalase-peroxidase, which allows it to neutralize hydrogen peroxide, a compound that can damage or even kill cells. Prochlorococcus relies on the other microorganisms around it to remove hydrogen peroxide from the environment, say the authors, allowing it to fob off its responsibilities on the unlucky card holders around it. This is an instance of how one species can profit from paring down while relying on other members of the community to help out.Losick says the Black Queen Hypothesis offers a new way of looking at complicated, inter-dependent communities of microorganisms. "I have a special interest in how bacteria form biofilms, complex natural communities that often consist of many different kinds of bacteria. The Black Queen Hypothesis provides a valuable new way to think about how the members of these biofilm communities coevolved."
The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 39,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.
Jim Sliwa | EurekAlert!
Nanotubes built from protein crystals: Breakthrough in biomolecular engineering
15.11.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology
Insect Antibiotic Provides New Way to Eliminate Bacteria
15.11.2018 | Universität Zürich
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
15.11.2018 | Earth Sciences
15.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
15.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy