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Proceeding of The Royal Society
Vol. 281,
2014, Page: 1 - 6

Social evolution of toxic metal bioremediation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Siobhan O’Brien, David J. Hodgson and Angus Buckling

Department of Biosciences, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn TR10 9FE, UK.


Bacteria are of teniron-limited,and hence produce extracellular iron-scavenging siderophores. A crucial feature of siderophore production is that it can be an altruistic behaviour (individually costly but benefitting neighbouring cells), thus siderophore producers can be invaded by non-producing social ‘cheats’. Recent studies have shown that siderophores can also bind other heavy metals (such as Cu and Zn), but in this case siderophore chelation actually reducesmetal uptake by bacteria.These complexes reduce heavy metal toxicity, hence siderophore production may contribute to toxic metal bioremediation. Here, we show that siderophore production in the context of bioremediation is also an altruistic trait and can be exploited by cheating phenotypes in the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Specifically, we show that in toxic copper concentrations (i) siderophore non-producers evolve de novo and reach high frequencies, and (ii) producing strains are fitter than isogenic non-producing strains in monoculture, and vice versa in co-culture. Moreover, we show that the evolutionary effect copper has on reducing siderophore pro-duction is greater than the reduction observed under iron-limited conditions. We discuss the relevance of these results to the evolution of siderophore production in natural communities and heavy metal bioremediation.

Keywords: public goods, cooperation, Pseudomonas, bioremediation, bacterial communities



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