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Cell Cycle. 2014;13(19):3083-8. doi: 10.4161/15384101.2014.949496.

Virus-host arms race at the joint origin of multicellularity and programmed cell death.

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a National Center for Biotechnology Information; National Library of Medicine; National Institutes of Health ; Bethesda , MD USA.


Unicellular eukaryotes and most prokaryotes possess distinct mechanisms of programmed cell death (PCD). How an "altruistic" trait, such as PCD, could evolve in unicellular organisms? To address this question, we developed a mathematical model of the virus-host co-evolution that involves interaction between immunity, PCD and cellular aggregation. Analysis of the parameter space of this model shows that under high virus load and imperfect immunity, joint evolution of cell aggregation and PCD is the optimal evolutionary strategy. Given the abundance of viruses in diverse habitats and the wide spread of PCD in most organisms, these findings imply that multiple instances of the emergence of multicellularity and its essential attribute, PCD, could have been driven, at least in part, by the virus-host arms race.


AI, abortive infection; PCD, programmed cell death; TA, toxin-antitoxin; evolution of multicellularity; host-parasite arms race; programmed cell death; viruses

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