Send to

Choose Destination
Acta Biotheor. 2001 Mar;49(1):23-8.

Margulis' theory on division of labour in cells revisited.

Author information

Department of Phycology, Institute of Hydrobiology, The Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, Hubei.


Division of labour is a marked feature of multicellular organisms. Margulis proposed that the ancestors of metazoans had only one microtubule organizing center (MTOC), so they could not move and divide simultaneously. Selection for simultaneous movement and cell division had driven the division of labour between cells. However, no evidence or explanation for this assumption was provided. Why could the unicellular ancestors not have multiple MTOCs? The gain and loss of three possible strategies are discussed. It was found that the advantage of one or two MTOC per cell is environment-dependent. Unicellular organisms with only one MTOC per cell are favored only in resource-limited environments without strong predatory pressure. If division of labour occurring in a bicellular organism just makes simultaneous movement and cell division possible, the possibility of its fixation by natural selection is very low because a somatic cell performing the function of an MTOC is obviously wasting resources. Evolutionary biologists should search for other selective forces for division of labour in cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center