Privatisation rescues function following loss of cooperation

Sandra Breum Andersen*, Melanie Ghoul, Rasmus L. Marvig, Zhuo-Bin Lee, Søren Molin, Helle Krogh Johansen, Ashleigh S Griffin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

215 Downloads (Pure)


A single cheating mutant can lead to the invasion and eventual eradication of cooperation from a population. Consequently, cheat invasion is often considered equal to extinction in empirical and theoretical studies of cooperator-cheat dynamics. But does cheat invasion necessarily equate extinction in nature? By following the social dynamics of iron metabolism in Pseudomonas aeruginosa during cystic fibrosis lung infection, we observed that individuals evolved to replace cooperation with a 'private' behaviour. Phenotypic assays showed that cooperative iron acquisition frequently was upregulated early in infection, which, however, increased the risk of cheat invasion. With whole-genome sequencing we showed that if, and only if, cooperative iron acquisition is lost from the population, a private system was upregulated. The benefit of upregulation depended on iron availability. These findings highlight the importance of social dynamics of natural populations and emphasizes the potential impact of past social interaction on the evolution of private traits.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere38594
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Cheating
  • Evolutionary biology
  • Infectious disease
  • Privatisation
  • Social evolution


Dive into the research topics of 'Privatisation rescues function following loss of cooperation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this