Author's Department


Document Type


Publication Date



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.


© 2014 smith et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of a CC BY 2.0 Creative Commons Attribution License. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-105

The data set supporting the results of this article is available in the Dryad repository at doi:10.5061/dryad.9ht88

Embargo Period