Special seminar - Diego Gonzalez: Decision-making strategies in bacterial warfare

  • Date: Oct 22, 2019
  • Time: 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Diego Gonzalez from University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland
  • Location: MPI Plön
  • Room: Lecture hall
  • Host: Daniel Unterweger


Most microorganisms live in dense environments where competition for resources and space is fierce. To exclude competitors, many bacteria rely on molecular weapons, including membrane-bound and diffusible toxins. In order to maximize warfare benefits and mitigate the potentially huge costs of conflict, producers must carefully control the timing of toxin expression. Using the colicins of Escherichia coli as a model, we propose a transversal view of the decision-making processes governing bacterial toxin production. We show how very simple regulatory circuits can lead to semi-stochastic toxin induction in individual cells and generate complex behaviors at the level of the colony. We emphasize possible strategic uses of interactions among competitors and shed light on scenarios reminiscent of the “divide and conquer” scheme observed in social animals. Overall, we highlight an overlooked degree of complexity in bacterial competitive behaviors.

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