One for All, but Not All for One: Social Behavior during Bacterial Diseases

Kimberly Davis, Ralph R. Isberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


It has been known for decades that individual cells within pathogenic bacterial populations have reduced antibiotic susceptibility, which is linked to decreased metabolic rates. A similar phenomenon occurs with virulence-associated proteins, as reduced expression is associated with increased fitness of individual cells. Non-producers within the population can benefit from the virulence proteins produced by others in the population without suffering a fitness cost, thus maintaining a genetically uniform population. Cooperative behavior has been reported for Salmonella and Yersinia, consistent with selection of social behavior to retain genes associated with pathogenesis; however, cooperation was unclear within Mycobacterium populations. This review focuses on these recent descriptions of cooperation, discusses the mechanisms driving heterogeneity, and evaluates the evidence that expression of virulence-associated proteins comes at a fitness cost.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTrends in Microbiology
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • extracellular pathogens
  • social behavior
  • spatial regulation
  • stress reponse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology

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