Stable multipartite mutualistic associations require that all partners benefit. We show that a single mutational step is sufficient to turn a symbiotic bacterium from an inedible but host-beneficial secondary metabolite producer into a host food source. The bacteria's host is a "farmer" clone of the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum that carries and disperses bacteria during its spore stage. Associated with the farmer are two strains of Pseudomonas fluorescens, only one of which serves as a food source. The other strain produces diffusible small molecules: pyrrolnitrin, a known antifungal agent, and a chromene that potently enhances the farmer's spore production and depresses a nonfarmer's spore production. Genome sequence and phylogenetic analyses identify a derived point mutation in the food strain that generates a premature stop codon in a global activator (gacA), encoding the response regulator of a two-component regulatory system. Generation of a knockout mutant of this regulatory gene in the nonfood bacterial strain altered its secondary metabolite profile to match that of the food strain, and also, independently, converted it into a food source. These results suggest that a single mutation in an inedible ancestral strain that served a protective role converted it to a "domesticated" food source.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Agricultural crops are investments that can be exploited by others. Farmer clones of the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum carry bacteria to seed out new food populations but they also carry other non-food bacteria such as Burkholderia spp. Here we demonstrate that these farmer-carried Burkholderia inhibit the growth of non-farmer D. discoideum clones that could exploit the farmers' crops. Using supernatants, we show that inhibition is due to molecules secreted by Burkholderia. When farmer and non-farmer amoebae are mixed together at various frequencies and allowed to complete the social stage, the ability of non-farmers to produce spores falls off rapidly with an increase in the percentage of farmers and their defensive symbionts. Conversely, farmer spore production is unaffected by the frequency of non-farmers. Our results suggest that successful farming is a complex evolutionary adaptation because it requires additional strategies, such as recruiting third parties, to effectively defend and privatize crops.
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We report that establishment and maintenance of the Drosophila melanogaster microbiome depend on ingestion of bacteria. Frequent transfer of flies to sterile food prevented establishment of the microbiome in newly emerged flies and reduced the predominant members, Acetobacter and Lactobacillus spp., by 10- to 1,000-fold in older flies. Flies with a normal microbiome were less susceptible than germfree flies to infection by Serratia marcescens and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Augmentation of the normal microbiome with higher populations of Lactobacillus plantarum, a Drosophila commensal and probiotic used in humans, further protected the fly from infection. Replenishment represents an unexplored strategy by which animals can sustain a gut microbial community. Moreover, the population behavior and health benefits of L. plantarum resemble features of certain probiotic bacteria administered to humans. As such, L. plantarum in the fly gut may serve as a simple model for dissecting the population dynamics and mode of action of probiotics in animal hosts.
Previous studies have defined the composition of the Drosophila melanogaster microbiome in laboratory and wild-caught flies. Our study advances current knowledge in this field by demonstrating that Drosophila must consume bacteria to establish and maintain its microbiome. This finding suggests that the dominant Drosophila symbionts remain associated with their host because of repeated reintroduction rather than internal growth. Furthermore, our study shows that one member of the microbiome, Lactobacillus plantarum, protects the fly from intestinal pathogens. These results suggest that, although not always present, the microbiota can promote salubrious effects for the host. In sum, our work provides a previously unexplored mechanism of microbiome maintenance and an in vivo model system for investigating the mechanisms of action of probiotic bacteria.
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