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Bacteria found in soil specialize in the colony by division of labor. Some of the bacteria produce antibiotics, even when it comes at the expense of their individual reproduction success, to defend their colony against competitors.
Division of labor is characteristic for social groups. Well-known examples can be found in social insects such as bees and ants, that divide tasks like searching for food and taking care of offspring. Scientists from the Institute of Biology Leiden have shown that Streptomyces coelicolor bacteria also adopt specialized roles within the colony. They found that part of the bacterial colony is dedicated to producing antibiotics and other molecules. Although this comes at individual costs, the colony as a whole benefits. The researchers' findings were published in the journal Science Advances.
Author - Zheren - Zhang - Research - Team
First author Zheren Zhang and the research team led by associate professors Daniel Rozen and Dennis Claessen, discovered that individual S. coelicolor bacteria in a colony produced an increased amount of antibiotics while producing fewer spores at the same time. Spores increase the chance of survival when conditions are unfavorable. Producing fewer spores means a decrease in reproductive success. There turned out to be a direct negative correlation between antibiotics production and spore production. Rozen explains: "This provides evidence that producing antibiotics is a costly affair, leaving these bacteria with less energy to put into other things like producing spores."
In an S. coelicolor colony...
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