How an organism dies affects the fitness of its neighbors

Pierre M. Durand, Armin Rashidi, Richard E Michod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Programmed cell death (PCD), a genetically regulated cell suicide program, is ubiquitous in the living world. In contrast to multicellular organisms, in which cells cooperate for the good of the organism, in unicells the cell is the organism and PCD presents a fundamental evolutionary problem. Why should an organism actively kill itself as opposed to dying in a nonprogrammed way? Proposed arguments vary from PCD in unicells being maladaptive to the assumption that it is an extreme form of altruism. To test whether PCD could be beneficial to nearby cells, we induced programmed and nonprogrammed death in the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Cellular contents liberated during non-PCD are detrimental to others, while the contents released during PCD are beneficial. The number of cells in growing cultures was used to measure fitness. Thermostability studies revealed that the beneficial effect of the PCD supernatant most likely involves simple heat-stable biomolecules. Non-PCD supernatant contains heat-sensitive molecules like cellular proteases and chlorophyll. These data indicate that the mode of death affects the origin and maintenance of PCD. The way in which an organism dies can have beneficial or deleterious effects on the fitness of its neighbors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-232
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Volume177
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2011

Fingerprint

fitness
apoptosis
organisms
altruism
cells
suicide
cell death
death
green alga
heat
chlorophyll
Chlamydomonas reinhardtii
organism
thermal stability
Chlorophyta
proteinases
effect
testing

Keywords

  • Altruism
  • Chlamydomonas
  • Evolution
  • Fitness
  • Multicellularity
  • Programmed cell death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

How an organism dies affects the fitness of its neighbors. / Durand, Pierre M.; Rashidi, Armin; Michod, Richard E.

In: American Naturalist, Vol. 177, No. 2, 02.2011, p. 224-232.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Durand, Pierre M. ; Rashidi, Armin ; Michod, Richard E. / How an organism dies affects the fitness of its neighbors. In: American Naturalist. 2011 ; Vol. 177, No. 2. pp. 224-232.
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