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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Fruiting bodies of the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum increase spore transport by Drosophila

jeff smith*, David C Queller and Joan E Strassmann

Author Affiliations

Department of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:105  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-105

Published: 15 May 2014

Abstract

Background

Many microbial phenotypes are the product of cooperative interactions among cells, but their putative fitness benefits are often not well understood. In the cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum, unicellular amoebae aggregate when starved and form multicellular fruiting bodies in which stress-resistant spores are held aloft by dead stalk cells. Fruiting bodies are thought to be adaptations for dispersing spores to new feeding sites, but this has not been directly tested. Here we experimentally test whether fruiting bodies increase the rate at which spores are acquired by passing invertebrates.

Results

Drosophila melanogaster accumulate spores on their surfaces more quickly when exposed to intact fruiting bodies than when exposed to fruiting bodies physically disrupted to dislodge spore masses from stalks. Flies also ingest and excrete spores that still express a red fluorescent protein marker.

Conclusions

Multicellular fruiting bodies created by D. discoideum increase the likelihood that invertebrates acquire spores that can then be transported to new feeding sites. These results thus support the long-hypothesized dispersal benefits of altruism in a model system for microbial cooperation.

Keywords:
Adaptation; Altruism; Cooperation; Dispersal