International Microbiology, Vol 19, No 2 (2016)

Unicellular but not asocial. Life in community of a bacterium

Diego Romero


All living organisms have acquired the outstanding ability to overcome the limitations imposed by changeable environments through the gain of genetic traits over years of evolution and the tendency of individuals to associate in communities. The complementation of a singular weakness, the deployment of reinforcement for the good of the community, the better use of resources, or effective defense against external aggression are advantages gained by this communal behavior. Communication has been the cohesive element prompting the global responses that promote efficiency in two features of any community: specialization in differentiated labor and the spatio-temporal organization of the environment. These principles illustrate that what we call human ecology also applies to the cellular world and is exemplified in eukaryotic organisms, where sophisticated cell-to-cell communication networks coordinate cell differentiation and the specialization of multiple tissues consisting of numerous cells embedded in a multifunctional extracellular matrix. This sophisticated molecular machinery appears, however, to be invented by the “simple” but still fascinating bacteria. What I will try to expand in the following sections are notions of how “single prokaryotic cells” organize a multicellular community. [Int Microbiol 19(2):81-90 (2016)]

Keywords: evolution · molecular machinery · multicellular community · prokaryotic cells · global responses

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