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Science. 2001 Apr 20;292(5516):504-7. Epub 2001 Mar 29.

Cooperation and competition in the evolution of ATP-producing pathways.

Author information

  • 1Friedrich Miescher Institute, Post Office Box 2543, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland., Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, D-13092 Berlin, Germany.

Erratum in

  • Science 2001 Aug 24;293(5534):1436.


Heterotrophic organisms generally face a trade-off between rate and yield of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. This trade-off may result in an evolutionary dilemma, because cells with a higher rate but lower yield of ATP production may gain a selective advantage when competing for shared energy resources. Using an analysis of model simulations and biochemical observations, we show that ATP production with a low rate and high yield can be viewed as a form of cooperative resource use and may evolve in spatially structured environments. Furthermore, we argue that the high ATP yield of respiration may have facilitated the evolutionary transition from unicellular to undifferentiated multicellular organisms.

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