Genomic signatures of cooperation and conflict in the social amoeba.

Ostrowski E, Shen Y, Tian X, Sucgang R, Jiang H, Qu J, Katoh-Kurasawa M, Brock D, Dinh C, Lara-Garduno F, Lee S, Kovar C, Dinh H, Korchina V, Jackson L, Patil S, Han Y, Chaboub L, Shaulsky G, Muzny D, Worley K, Gibbs R, Richards S, Kuspa A, Strassmann J, Queller D

Current biology, 2015.

Lab members marked as bold


Cooperative systems are susceptible to invasion by selfish individuals that profit from receiving the social benefits but fail to contribute. These so-called “cheaters” can have a fitness advantage in the laboratory, but it is unclear whether cheating provides an important selective advantage in nature. We used a population genomic approach to examine the history of genes involved in cheating behaviors in the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum, testing whether these genes experience rapid evolutionary change as a result of conflict over spore-stalk fate. Candidate genes and surrounding regions showed elevated polymorphism, unusual patterns of linkage disequilibrium, and lower levels of population differentiation, but they did not show greater between-species divergence. The signatures were most consistent with frequency-dependent selection acting to maintain multiple alleles, suggesting that conflict may lead to stalemate rather than an escalating arms race. Our results reveal the evolutionary dynamics of cooperation and cheating and underscore how sequence-based approaches can be used to elucidate the history of conflicts that are difficult to observe directly.