Thread: Genetic enforcement of cooperation (in bacteria)

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  1. #1
    Join Date Mar 2006
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    Default Genetic enforcement of cooperation (in bacteria)

    One might think that cooperation by itself should be enough of a kick to give certain groups a survival advantage. It looks like in this case, these bacteria have even evolved a genetic secondary backup to ensure the success of cooperation.

    We humans take great pride in our ability to come together and cooperate as a society. many microbes cooperate as well. A conundrum among scientists has been how bacteria manage to prevent cheaters from taking over their population, even without jails or stocks or scarlet letters.

    Many bacteria cooperate when they reach high population density. secreting extracellular enzymes would be a waste for a lone bacterium. If a lot of bugs all secrete enzymes at once, the digested nutrients will build up to a high enough concentration for all to benefit. bacteria secrete "quorum sensing" (QS) molecules that allow them to detect how many of their fellows are around. When they reach quorum, the bacteria switch on their high-cell-density genes.

    Cheaters wouldn't make or release digestive enzymes, but they would still get to eat the nutrients broken down by all the cooperators. Cheaters have an immediate advantage, yet in the wild we mostly see cooperators. Why?

    as a control, they grew the bugs on just casein, which requires secreted enzymes to digest. As expected, cheater mutants emerged and took over nearly half the population within a few weeks. But when they added another food source (adenosine) to the medium, the cheaters never prospered!

    Adenosine is metabolized inside the cell. But adenosine metabolism is one of those private genetic systems paradoxically controlled by QS. It turns out that by putting adenosine metabolism under QS control, pseudomonas has rigged the game so that when cooperators turn on their QS switch, they get enough private benefit (from adenosine) in addition to public benefit (from casein) that they grow better than cheater mutants with broken QS switches (who get free casein but no adenosine).

    The bacteria put genes controlling some private goods under control of the same genetic switch that controls public goods, which ensures that cooperators are those who prosper.
  2. #2
    Join Date May 2011
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    CYU, Life on Earth is a cooperative process begun some 4 billion years ago when organic molecules in the primordial atmosphere autocatalyzed (cooperated!) to merge into protocells--primitive systems that then evolved in chemical steps into the first true living system/organism, a bacterium. These single-celled organisms then cooperatively spread to "rule" life on Earth until multi-celled organisms began to appear some 2 billion years later.

    And then human beings rose, and it is our nature to be intensely cooperative social individuals along the lines of your anarcho-syndicalism and the many other left expressions of consciously organized community. But we humans and leftists must consciously form our communities in life's pervasive pattern of organized cooperation, and we haven't known how.

    The Capra's triangle I have been promoting and developing elsewhere models life's universal pattern of organization to we who must consciously, cooperatively organize our lives.

    The point of this post is that life on Earth is a differentiated unity of self-organizing, cooperative organisms. Forget the "nature red in tooth and claw" human misperception of life's pervasive cooperation and communication. The organisms we perceive as viciously fighting and eating each other are merely relating in various ways to keep life's bootstrap of living systems going. Life's organisms are simply maintaining the cooperation--the dynamic interdependence--of life on Earth, and Capra's triangle potentially enables regular human beings to "see" life's hidden organizational relations and to create and live realized lives in various forms of human community and cooperation.

    As for that bacterium of the OP, its genes are cooperative, too, and could only be so. A bacterium's genes are organized into a genome--a living system. Genes are nothing without the cooperative organization of the genome they form.

    A major point: reductionist science has glorified the individual gene, which is but a bit of dust without organization into a genome. Current reductionist science, led by persons such as Richard Dawkins, therefore ignores the organization the underlies all life, and revolutionaries cannot make this mistake. We gotta emphasize organization and get organized!

    Current neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory has the cell with its genome beginning life, but the extraordinary organization required for this to occur could not have been cobbled together by random, external forces. So creationists are correct when they criticize the neo-Darwinian evolutionary process as scientifically invalid. The evolutionary theorist, Stuart Kauffman, has estimated the mathematical possibility of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory's model of the beginning of life being correct as one to the number of hydrogen atoms in the universe. Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory thus expects monkeys to write Shakespeare.

    Let's get two matters correct. Primitive cells preceded the cellular living systems that then evolved genes as internal markers to guide the organizational parameters of the developing and environmentally interacting organism. It is cells first, genes later, and the self-organization of matter into living systems on Earth is a deeply cooperative, communal process.

    The second point is that life consists of various forms of differentiated cooperation and community, such as anarchism, communism, anarcho-syndicalism, etc. These human social systems have a natural organization (community), and Capra's triangle models the universal pattern of organization from which life's myriad forms of community arise.

    Life and cooperation are inseparable, and I'd like to find more of a sense of cooperation at RevLeft. We must begin to devise paths out of capitalism into various forms of human community before capitalism destroys us.

    My red-green best.
  3. #3
    Join Date Mar 2006
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    There's actually a documentary from Dawkins explaining the success of cooperation. Here's an excerpt (sorry I didn't spend much time finding the whole thing, but it's worth looking for =)

    Life and cooperation are inseparable
    Yep - it's still somewhat of a new line of thinking these days. Then again, Darwin's ideas are still relatively new as well. Still, cells cooperate and form organisms. Organisms cooperate and form societies.

    I would say successful politicial, economic, moral, and religious systems are the meme collections that best enable their people to help eachother survive and pass on those memes.

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