CEM Seminar - Lee Dugatkin

Altruism Writ Small: E. coli cells protect one another from antibiotics

Professor and Distinguished University Scholar in the Department of Biology
University of Louisville
Altruism Writ Small: E. coli cells protect one another from antibiotics
 
The evolution of altruism is often referred to as the central paradox of evolutionary biology. My colleagues and I have been studying microbial altruism in E. coli. Altruism in this system involves a cell secreting a substance called beta-lactamase, which breaks down antibiotics, and protects not just the cell secreting this substance, but all cells in the general vicinity. We've done experiments that show that producing beta-lactamase is expensive and cells that don't pay these costs-- cheater cells --grow more quickly than cells that do (when no antibiotics are around). And yet, these secreting altruists coexist side by side with their cheating fellow cells. I'll talk about experiments that help us understand why, and then discuss work we have done that extends microbial altruism and cheating to interspecific interactions between E. coli and Salmonella cells.
 
Dr. Dugatkin is a Professor and Distinguished University Scholar in the Department of Biology at The University of Louisville. His main area of research interest is the evolution of social behavior. In his lab, he is studying the evolution of cooperation, the evolution of aggression, the interaction between genetic and cultural evolution, the evolution of antibiotic resistance, and the evolution of risk-taking behavior.