CIE Seminar Series 2016 – Altruism writ small: The case of E.coli and antibiotic resistance

Lee DugatkinSPEAKER: Prof Lee Dugatkin, Professor & Distinguished University Scholar, Department of Biology, University of Louisville

DATE: Friday, 29th April 2016
LOCATION: Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds, Room KA3.406
TIME: 1:30pm
Seminar will also be video linked to the following campuses: Melbourne Campus at Burwood, Burwood City Centre (BCC) and Warrnambool Campus, Room J2.22

ABSTRACT: The evolution of altruism is often referred to as the central paradox of evolutionary biology. My colleagues and I have been studying microbial altruism in E. coli. Altruism in this system involves a cell secreting a substance called beta-lactamase, which breaks down antibiotics, and protects not just the cell secreting this substance, but all cells in the general vicinity.

We’ve done experiments that show that producing beta-lactamase is expensive and cells that don’t pay these costs– cheater cells –grow more quickly than cells that do (when no antibiotics are around). And yet, these secreting altruists coexist side by side with their cheating fellow cells.

I’ll talk about experiments that help us understand why, briefly touch on some computer simulations that model microbial altruism, and then discuss work we have done that extends microbial altruism and cheating to interspecific interactions between E. coli and Salmonella cells.

BIO: Lee is a Professor and Distinguished University Scholar in the Department of Biology at The University of Louisville. His main areas of research interest are the evolution of social behaviour, and the history of science. He has studied cooperation and mate choice, especially in fish, and also using modelling.

Lee is the author of over 150 articles on evolution and behaviour in such journals as Nature, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and The Proceedings of The Royal Society of London.

He also has written three books on the evolution of cooperation:

  • Cooperation among Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective, Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Cheating Monkeys and Citizen Bees, The Free Press, 1999.
  • The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness, Princeton University Press, 2006.

Lee has also written a number of popular books, including Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose (The University of Chicago Press, 2009) and The Prince of Evolution (2011).

Appointments with guest speaker may be made via Brianne Addison.

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