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PLoS One. 2010 Apr 1;5(4):e9998. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009998.

Co-swarming and local collapse: quorum sensing conveys resilience to bacterial communities by localizing cheater mutants in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

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  • 1International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Trieste, Italy. venturi@icgeb.org



Members of swarming bacterial consortia compete for nutrients but also use a co-operation mechanism called quorum sensing (QS) that relies on chemical signals as well as other secreted products ("public goods") necessary for swarming. Deleting various genes of this machinery leads to cheater mutants impaired in various aspects of swarming cooperation.


Pairwise consortia made of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, its QS mutants as well as B. cepacia cells show that a interspecies consortium can "combine the skills" of its participants so that the strains can cross together barriers that they could not cross alone. In contrast, deleterious mutants are excluded from consortia either by competition or by local population collapse. According to modeling, both scenarios are the consequence of the QS signalling mechanism itself.


The results indirectly explain why it is an advantage for bacteria to maintain QS systems that can cross-talk among different species, and conversely, why certain QS mutants which can be abundant in isolated niches, cannot spread and hence remain localized.

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