Siderophore production and the evolution of investment in a public good: An adaptive dynamics approach to kin selection

William Lee, Minus van Baalen, Vincent A.A. Jansen

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Like many other bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa sequesters iron from the environment through the secretion, and subsequent uptake, of iron-binding molecules. As these molecules can be taken up by other bacteria in the population than those who secreted them, this is a form of cooperation through a public good. Traditionally, this problem has been studied by comparing the relative fitnesses of siderophore-producing and non-producing strains, but this gives no information about the fate of strains that do produce intermediate amounts of siderophores. Here, we investigate theoretically how the amount invested in this form of cooperation evolves. We use a mechanistic description of the laboratory protocols used in experimental evolution studies to describe the competition and cooperation of the bacteria. From this dynamical model we derive the fitness following the adaptive dynamics method. The results show how selection is driven by local siderophore production and local competition. Because siderophore production reduces the growth rate, local competition decreases with the degree of relatedness (which is a dynamical variable in our model).

Our model is not restricted to the analysis of small phenotypic differences and allows for theoretical exploration of the effects of large phenotypic differences between cooperators and cheats. We predict that an intermediate ESS level of cooperation (molecule production) should exist. The adaptive dynamics approach allows us to assess evolutionary stability, which is often not possible in other kin-selection models. We found that selection can lead to an intermediate strategy which in our model is always evolutionarily stable, yet can allow invasion of strategies that are much more cooperative. Our model describes the evolution of a public good in the context of the ecology of the microorganism, which allows us to relate the extent of production of the public good to the details of the interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-71
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Early online date22 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2016

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