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Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 2003 Aug;78(3):435-63.

Quantitative steps in symbiogenesis and the evolution of homeostasis.

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Department of Theoretical Biology, Institute of Ecological Science, Vrije Universiteit, de Boelelaan 1087, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The merging of two independent populations of heterotrophs and autotrophs into a single population of mixotrophs has occurred frequently in evolutionary history. It is an example of a wide class of related phenomena, known as symbiogenesis. The physiological basis is almost always (reciprocal) syntrophy, where each species uses the products of the other species. Symbiogenesis can repeat itself after specialization on particular assimilatory substrates. We discuss quantitative aspects and delineate eight steps from two free-living interacting populations to a single fully integrated endosymbiotic one. The whole process of gradual interlocking of the two populations could be mimicked by incremental changes of particular parameter values. The role of products gradually changes from an ecological to a physiological one. We found conditions where the free-living, epibiotic and endobiotic populations of symbionts can co-exist, as well as conditions where the endobiotic symbionts outcompete other symbionts. Our population dynamical analyses give new insights into the evolution of cellular homeostasis. We show how structural biomass with a constant chemical composition can evolve in a chemically varying environment if the parameters for the formation of products satisfy simple constraints. No additional regulation mechanisms are required for homeostasis within the context of the dynamic energy budget (DEB) theory for the uptake and use of substrates by organisms. The DEB model appears to be dosed under endosymbiosis. This means that when each free-living partner follows DEB rules for substrate uptake and use, and they become engaged in an endosymbiotic relationship, a gradual transition to a single fully integrated system is possible that again follows DEB rules for substrate uptake and use.

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