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PLoS Biol. 2011 Aug;9(8):e1001122. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001122. Epub 2011 Aug 9.

Sucrose utilization in budding yeast as a model for the origin of undifferentiated multicellularity.

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FAS Center for Systems Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America.

Erratum in

  • PLoS Biol. 2011 Aug;9(8):10.1371/annotation/0b9bab0d-1d20-46ad-b318-d2229cde0f6f.. Koschwanez, John H [corrected to Koschwanez, J H]; Foster, Kevin R [corrected to Foster, K R]; Murray, Andrew W [corrected to Murray, A W]..


We use the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to investigate one model for the initial emergence of multicellularity: the formation of multicellular aggregates as a result of incomplete cell separation. We combine simulations with experiments to show how the use of secreted public goods favors the formation of multicellular aggregates. Yeast cells can cooperate by secreting invertase, an enzyme that digests sucrose into monosaccharides, and many wild isolates are multicellular because cell walls remain attached to each other after the cells divide. We manipulate invertase secretion and cell attachment, and show that multicellular clumps have two advantages over single cells: they grow under conditions where single cells cannot and they compete better against cheaters, cells that do not make invertase. We propose that the prior use of public goods led to selection for the incomplete cell separation that first produced multicellularity.

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