The evolution of cooperation is a fundamental problem in biology: why help another individual to survive and reproduce, if this comes at a cost? What prevents cooperators being outcompeted by ‘cheats’ that contribute less to collective, cooperative activities?
The Brown lab has pioneered the application of social evolution theory to microbes and parasites. Through the study of the peculiar life-histories of bacterial pathogens (often stranger than any Sci Fi) we have discovered new mechanisms allowing cooperative behaviours to persist, new functional roles for bacterial communication systems and key roles for Horizontal Gene Transfer in shaping collective behaviours.
L McNally et al. 2017. Killing by Type VI secretion drives genetic phase separation and correlates with increased cooperation. Nature Communications 8, 14371
Allen, R. C., McNally, L., Popat, R. & Brown, S. P. 2016. Quorum sensing protects bacterial co-operation from exploitation by cheats. ISME J. online early doi: 10.1038/ismej.2015.232
T Dimitriu, D Misevic, C Lotton, SP Brown, AB Lindner, F Taddei (2016) Indirect Fitness Benefits Enable the Spread of Host Genes Promoting Costly Transfer of Beneficial Plasmids PLoS Biology 14 (6), e1002478
Dimitriu T, Lotton C, Bénard-Capelle J, Misevic D, Brown SP, Lindner AB, Taddei F (2014) Genetic information transfer promotes cooperation in bacteria. PNAS 111, 11103-11108.
Cornforth D, Popat R, McNally L, Gurney J, Scott-Phillips T, Ivens A, Diggle SP, Brown SP(2014) Combinatorial quorum-sensing allows bacteria to resolve their social and physical environment. PNAS 111, 4280-4284.
McNally L, Viana M, Brown SP (2014) Cooperative secretions facilitate host range expansions in bacteria. Nature Comms. 5, 4594.
Kentzoglanakis K, López DG, Brown SP, Goldstein RA (2013) The evolution of collective restraint: policing and obedience in non-conjugative plasmids. PLOS Computational Biology 9, e1003036.
Morgan AD, Quigley BJZ, Brown SP, Buckling A (2012) Selection on non-social traits limits the invasion of social cheats. Ecology Letters 15, 841-846
Cornforth DM, Sumpter D, Brown SP, Brannstrom A (2012) Synergy and group size in microbial cooperation. American Naturalist 180, 296-305.
Brown SP & Taylor PD. 2010. Joint evolution of multiple social traits – a kin selection analysis. Proc. R. Soc. B. 277, 415-422.
Kummerli R & Brown SP. 2010. Molecular and regulatory properties of a public good shape the evolution of cooperation. P.N.A.S. 107, 18921-18926
Nogueira T, Rankin DJ, Touchon M, Taddei F, Brown SP, Rocha EPC. 2009. Horizontal gene transfer of the secretome drives the evolution of bacterial cooperation and virulence. Current Biology 19, 1683-91
Brown SP & Johnstone R.A. 2001. Cooperation in the dark: signalling and collective action in quorum-sensing bacteria. Proc. R. Soc. B 268:961-967
Brown SP 1999. Cooperation and conflict in host-manipulating parasites. Proc. R. Soc. B 266:1899-1904