PLoS Computational Biology
Positional Bias of MHC Class I Restricted T-Cell Epitopes in Viral Antigens Is Likely due to a Bias in Conservation
by Yohan Kim, Jonathan W. Yewdell, Alessandro Sette, Bjoern PetersThe immune system rapidly responds to intracellular infections by detecting MHC class I restricted T-cell epitopes presented on infected cells. It was originally thought that viral peptides are liberated during constitutive protein turnover, but this conflicts with the observation that viral epitopes are detected within minutes of their synthesis even when their source proteins exhibit half-lives of days. The DRiPs hypothesis proposes that epitopes derive from Defective Ribosomal Products (DRiPs), rather than degradation of mature protein products. One potential source of DRiPs is premature translation termination. If this is a major source of DRiPs, this should be reflected in positional bias towards the N-terminus. By contrast, if downstream initiation is a major source of DRiPs, there should be positional bias towards the C-terminus. Here, we systematically assessed positional bias of epitopes in viral antigens, exploiting the large set of data available in the Immune Epitope Database and Analysis Resource. We show a statistically significant degree of positional skewing among epitopes; epitopes from both ends of antigens tend to be under-represented. Centric-skewing correlates with a bias towards class I binding peptides being over-represented in the middle, in parallel with a higher degree of evolutionary conservation.
Assembly of the Transmembrane Domain of E. coli PhoQ Histidine Kinase: Implications for Signal Transduction from Molecular Simulations
by Thomas Lemmin, Cinque S. Soto, Graham Clinthorne, William F. DeGrado, Matteo Dal PeraroThe PhoQP two-component system is a signaling complex essential for bacterial virulence and cationic antimicrobial peptide resistance. PhoQ is the histidine kinase chemoreceptor of this tandem machine and assembles in a homodimer conformation spanning the bacterial inner membrane. Currently, a full understanding of the PhoQ signal transduction is hindered by the lack of a complete atomistic structure. In this study, an atomistic model of the key transmembrane (TM) domain is assembled by using molecular simulations, guided by experimental cross-linking data. The formation of a polar pocket involving Asn202 in the lumen of the tetrameric TM bundle is crucial for the assembly and solvation of the domain. Moreover, a concerted displacement of the TM helices at the periplasmic side is found to modulate a rotation at the cytoplasmic end, supporting the transduction of the chemical signal through a combination of scissoring and rotational movement of the TM helices.
by Andrew H. Beck, Nicholas W. Knoblauch, Marco M. Hefti, Jennifer Kaplan, Stuart J. Schnitt, Aedin C. Culhane, Markus S. Schroeder, Thomas Risch, John Quackenbush, Benjamin Haibe-KainsA major goal in translational cancer research is to identify biological signatures driving cancer progression and metastasis. A common technique applied in genomics research is to cluster patients using gene expression data from a candidate prognostic gene set, and if the resulting clusters show statistically significant outcome stratification, to associate the gene set with prognosis, suggesting its biological and clinical importance. Recent work has questioned the validity of this approach by showing in several breast cancer data sets that “random” gene sets tend to cluster patients into prognostically variable subgroups. This work suggests that new rigorous statistical methods are needed to identify biologically informative prognostic gene sets. To address this problem, we developed Significance Analysis of Prognostic Signatures (SAPS) which integrates standard prognostic tests with a new prognostic significance test based on stratifying patients into prognostic subtypes with random gene sets. SAPS ensures that a significant gene set is not only able to stratify patients into prognostically variable groups, but is also enriched for genes showing strong univariate associations with patient prognosis, and performs significantly better than random gene sets. We use SAPS to perform a large meta-analysis (the largest completed to date) of prognostic pathways in breast and ovarian cancer and their molecular subtypes. Our analyses show that only a small subset of the gene sets found statistically significant using standard measures achieve significance by SAPS. We identify new prognostic signatures in breast and ovarian cancer and their corresponding molecular subtypes, and we show that prognostic signatures in ER negative breast cancer are more similar to prognostic signatures in ovarian cancer than to prognostic signatures in ER positive breast cancer. SAPS is a powerful new method for deriving robust prognostic biological signatures from clinically annotated genomic datasets.
by Holly E. Gerhard, Felix A. Wichmann, Matthias BethgeA key hypothesis in sensory system neuroscience is that sensory representations are adapted to the statistical regularities in sensory signals and thereby incorporate knowledge about the outside world. Supporting this hypothesis, several probabilistic models of local natural image regularities have been proposed that reproduce neural response properties. Although many such physiological links have been made, these models have not been linked directly to visual sensitivity. Previous psychophysical studies of sensitivity to natural image regularities focus on global perception of large images, but much less is known about sensitivity to local natural image regularities. We present a new paradigm for controlled psychophysical studies of local natural image regularities and compare how well such models capture perceptually relevant image content. To produce stimuli with precise statistics, we start with a set of patches cut from natural images and alter their content to generate a matched set whose joint statistics are equally likely under a probabilistic natural image model. The task is forced choice to discriminate natural patches from model patches. The results show that human observers can learn to discriminate the higher-order regularities in natural images from those of model samples after very few exposures and that no current model is perfect for patches as small as 5 by 5 pixels or larger. Discrimination performance was accurately predicted by model likelihood, an information theoretic measure of model efficacy, indicating that the visual system possesses a surprisingly detailed knowledge of natural image higher-order correlations, much more so than current image models. We also perform three cue identification experiments to interpret how model features correspond to perceptually relevant image features.
by Stefan Wuchty, Dolores Arjona, Peter O. BauerWe computationally determined miRs that are significantly connected to molecular pathways by utilizing gene expression profiles in different cancer types such as glioblastomas, ovarian and breast cancers. Specifically, we assumed that the knowledge of physical interactions between miRs and genes indicated subsets of important miRs (IM) that significantly contributed to the regression of pathway-specific enrichment scores. Despite the different nature of the considered cancer types, we found strongly overlapping sets of IMs. Furthermore, IMs that were important for many pathways were enriched with literature-curated cancer and differentially expressed miRs. Such sets of IMs also coincided well with clusters of miRs that were experimentally indicated in numerous other cancer types. In particular, we focused on an overlapping set of 99 overall important miRs (OIM) that were found in glioblastomas, ovarian and breast cancers simultaneously. Notably, we observed that interactions between OIMs and leading edge genes of differentially expressed pathways were characterized by considerable changes in their expression correlations. Such gains/losses of miR and gene expression correlation indicated miR/gene pairs that may play a causal role in the underlying cancers.
Divide and Conquer: Functional Segregation of Synaptic Inputs by Astrocytic Microdomains Could Alleviate Paroxysmal Activity Following Brain Trauma
by Vladislav Volman, Maxim Bazhenov, Terrence J. SejnowskiTraumatic brain injury often leads to epileptic seizures. Among other factors, homeostatic synaptic plasticity (HSP) mediates posttraumatic epileptogenesis through unbalanced synaptic scaling, partially compensating for the trauma-incurred loss of neural excitability. HSP is mediated in part by tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), which is released locally from reactive astrocytes early after trauma in response to chronic neuronal inactivity. During this early period, TNFα is likely to be constrained to its glial sources; however, the contribution of glia-mediated spatially localized HSP to post-traumatic epileptogenesis remains poorly understood. We used computational model to investigate the reorganization of collective neural activity early after trauma. Trauma and synaptic scaling transformed asynchronous spiking into paroxysmal discharges. The rate of paroxysms could be reduced by functional segregation of synaptic input into astrocytic microdomains. Thus, we propose that trauma-triggered reactive gliosis could exert both beneficial and deleterious effects on neural activity.
by Michael A. Buice, Carson C. ChowWe investigate the dynamics of a deterministic finite-sized network of synaptically coupled spiking neurons and present a formalism for computing the network statistics in a perturbative expansion. The small parameter for the expansion is the inverse number of neurons in the network. The network dynamics are fully characterized by a neuron population density that obeys a conservation law analogous to the Klimontovich equation in the kinetic theory of plasmas. The Klimontovich equation does not possess well-behaved solutions but can be recast in terms of a coupled system of well-behaved moment equations, known as a moment hierarchy. The moment hierarchy is impossible to solve but in the mean field limit of an infinite number of neurons, it reduces to a single well-behaved conservation law for the mean neuron density. For a large but finite system, the moment hierarchy can be truncated perturbatively with the inverse system size as a small parameter but the resulting set of reduced moment equations that are still very difficult to solve. However, the entire moment hierarchy can also be re-expressed in terms of a functional probability distribution of the neuron density. The moments can then be computed perturbatively using methods from statistical field theory. Here we derive the complete mean field theory and the lowest order second moment corrections for physiologically relevant quantities. Although we focus on finite-size corrections, our method can be used to compute perturbative expansions in any parameter.
by Corentin M. Barbu, Andrew Hong, Jennifer M. Manne, Dylan S. Small, Javier E. Quintanilla Calderón, Karthik Sethuraman, Víctor Quispe-Machaca, Jenny Ancca-Juárez, Juan G. Cornejo del Carpio, Fernando S. Málaga Chavez, César Náquira, Michael Z. LevyWith increasing urbanization vector-borne diseases are quickly developing in cities, and urban control strategies are needed. If streets are shown to be barriers to disease vectors, city blocks could be used as a convenient and relevant spatial unit of study and control. Unfortunately, existing spatial analysis tools do not allow for assessment of the impact of an urban grid on the presence of disease agents. Here, we first propose a method to test for the significance of the impact of streets on vector infestation based on a decomposition of Moran's spatial autocorrelation index; and second, develop a Gaussian Field Latent Class model to finely describe the effect of streets while controlling for cofactors and imperfect detection of vectors. We apply these methods to cross-sectional data of infestation by the Chagas disease vector Triatoma infestans in the city of Arequipa, Peru. Our Moran's decomposition test reveals that the distribution of T. infestans in this urban environment is significantly constrained by streets (p<0.05). With the Gaussian Field Latent Class model we confirm that streets provide a barrier against infestation and further show that greater than 90% of the spatial component of the probability of vector presence is explained by the correlation among houses within city blocks. The city block is thus likely to be an appropriate spatial unit to describe and control T. infestans in an urban context. Characteristics of the urban grid can influence the spatial dynamics of vector borne disease and should be considered when designing public health policies.
How Evolving Heterogeneity Distributions of Resource Allocation Strategies Shape Mortality Patterns
by Yann Le Cunff, Annette Baudisch, Khashayar PakdamanIt is well established that individuals age differently. Yet the nature of these inter-individual differences is still largely unknown. For humans, two main hypotheses have been recently formulated: individuals may experience differences in aging rate or aging timing. This issue is central because it directly influences predictions for human lifespan and provides strong insights into the biological determinants of aging. In this article, we propose a model which lets population heterogeneity emerge from an evolutionary algorithm. We find that whether individuals differ in (i) aging rate or (ii) timing leads to different emerging population heterogeneity. Yet, in both cases, the same mortality patterns are observed at the population level. These patterns qualitatively reproduce those of yeasts, flies, worms and humans. Such findings, supported by an extensive parameter exploration, suggest that mortality patterns across species and their potential shapes belong to a limited and robust set of possible curves. In addition, we use our model to shed light on the notion of subpopulations, link population heterogeneity with the experimental results of stress induction experiments and provide predictions about the expected mortality patterns. As biology is moving towards the study of the distribution of individual-based measures, the model and framework we propose here paves the way for evolutionary interpretations of empirical and experimental data linking the individual level to the population level.
Identifying Transmission Cycles at the Human-Animal Interface: The Role of Animal Reservoirs in Maintaining Gambiense Human African Trypanosomiasis
by Sebastian Funk, Hiroshi Nishiura, Hans Heesterbeek, W. John Edmunds, Francesco ChecchiMany infections can be transmitted between animals and humans. The epidemiological roles of different species can vary from important reservoirs to dead-end hosts. Here, we present a method to identify transmission cycles in different combinations of species from field data. We used this method to synthesise epidemiological and ecological data from Bipindi, Cameroon, a historical focus of gambiense Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT, sleeping sickness), a disease that has often been considered to be maintained mainly by humans. We estimated the basic reproduction number of gambiense HAT in Bipindi and evaluated the potential for transmission in the absence of human cases. We found that under the assumption of random mixing between vectors and hosts, gambiense HAT could not be maintained in this focus without the contribution of animals. This result remains robust under extensive sensitivity analysis. When using the distributions of species among habitats to estimate the amount of mixing between those species, we found indications for an independent transmission cycle in wild animals. Stochastic simulation of the system confirmed that unless vectors moved between species very rarely, reintroduction would usually occur shortly after elimination of the infection from human populations. This suggests that elimination strategies may have to be reconsidered as targeting human cases alone would be insufficient for control, and reintroduction from animal reservoirs would remain a threat. Our approach is broadly applicable and could reveal animal reservoirs critical to the control of other infectious diseases.
Evolutionary Optimization of Protein Folding
by Cédric Debès, Minglei Wang, Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, Frauke GräterNature has shaped the make up of proteins since their appearance, 3.8 billion years ago. However, the fundamental drivers of structural change responsible for the extraordinary diversity of proteins have yet to be elucidated. Here we explore if protein evolution affects folding speed. We estimated folding times for the present-day catalog of protein domains directly from their size-modified contact order. These values were mapped onto an evolutionary timeline of domain appearance derived from a phylogenomic analysis of protein domains in 989 fully-sequenced genomes. Our results show a clear overall increase of folding speed during evolution, with known ultra-fast downhill folders appearing rather late in the timeline. Remarkably, folding optimization depends on secondary structure. While alpha-folds showed a tendency to fold faster throughout evolution, beta-folds exhibited a trend of folding time increase during the last 1.5 billion years that began during the “big bang” of domain combinations. As a consequence, these domain structures are on average slow folders today. Our results suggest that fast and efficient folding of domains shaped the universe of protein structure. This finding supports the hypothesis that optimization of the kinetic and thermodynamic accessibility of the native fold reduces protein aggregation propensities that hamper cellular functions.
by Ruian Ke, Piers J. Ingram, Ken HaynesYeast cells are able to tolerate and adapt to a variety of environmental stresses. An essential aspect of stress adaptation is the regulation of monovalent ion concentrations. Ion regulation determines many fundamental physiological parameters, such as cell volume, membrane potential, and intracellular pH. It is achieved through the concerted activities of multiple cellular components, including ion transporters and signaling molecules, on both short and long time scales. Although each component has been studied in detail previously, it remains unclear how the physiological parameters are maintained and regulated by the concerted action of all components under a diverse range of stress conditions. In this study, we have constructed an integrated mathematical model of ion regulation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae to understand this coordinated adaptation process. Using this model, we first predict that the interaction between phosphorylated Hog1p and Tok1p at the plasma membrane inhibits Tok1p activity and consequently reduces Na+ influx under NaCl stress. We further characterize the impacts of NaCl, sorbitol, KCl and alkaline pH stresses on the cellular physiology and the differences between the cellular responses to these stresses. We predict that the calcineurin pathway is essential for maintaining a non-toxic level of intracellular Na+ in the long-term adaptation to NaCl stress, but that its activation is not required for maintaining a low level of Na+ under other stresses investigated. We provide evidence that, in addition to extrusion of toxic ions, Ena1p plays an important role, in some cases alongside Nha1p, in re-establishing membrane potential after stress perturbation. To conclude, this model serves as a powerful tool for both understanding the complex system-level properties of the highly coordinated adaptation process and generating further hypotheses for experimental investigation.
Saccadic Momentum and Facilitation of Return Saccades Contribute to an Optimal Foraging Strategy
by Niklas Wilming, Simon Harst, Nico Schmidt, Peter KönigThe interest in saccadic IOR is funneled by the hypothesis that it serves a clear functional purpose in the selection of fixation points: the facilitation of foraging. In this study, we arrive at a different interpretation of saccadic IOR. First, we find that return saccades are performed much more often than expected from the statistical properties of saccades and saccade pairs. Second, we find that fixation durations before a saccade are modulated by the relative angle of the saccade, but return saccades show no sign of an additional temporal inhibition. Thus, we do not find temporal saccadic inhibition of return. Interestingly, we find that return locations are more salient, according to empirically measured saliency (locations that are fixated by many observers) as well as stimulus dependent saliency (defined by image features), than regular fixation locations. These results and the finding that return saccades increase the match of individual trajectories with a grand total priority map evidences the return saccades being part of a fixation selection strategy that trades off exploration and exploitation.
by Kristy Nowak-Lovato, Ludmil B. Alexandrov, Afsheen Banisadr, Amy L. Bauer, Alan R. Bishop, Anny Usheva, Fangping Mu, Elizabeth Hong-Geller, Kim Ø. Rasmussen, William S. Hlavacek, Boian S. AlexandrovPhysicochemical properties of DNA, such as shape, affect protein-DNA recognition. However, the properties of DNA that are most relevant for predicting the binding sites of particular transcription factors (TFs) or classes of TFs have yet to be fully understood. Here, using a model that accurately captures the melting behavior and breathing dynamics (spontaneous local openings of the double helix) of double-stranded DNA, we simulated the dynamics of known binding sites of the TF and nucleoid-associated protein Fis in Escherichia coli. Our study involves simulations of breathing dynamics, analysis of large published in vitro and genomic datasets, and targeted experimental tests of our predictions. Our simulation results and available in vitro binding data indicate a strong correlation between DNA breathing dynamics and Fis binding. Indeed, we can define an average DNA breathing profile that is characteristic of Fis binding sites. This profile is significantly enriched among the identified in vivo E. coli Fis binding sites. To test our understanding of how Fis binding is influenced by DNA breathing dynamics, we designed base-pair substitutions, mismatch, and methylation modifications of DNA regions that are known to interact (or not interact) with Fis. The goal in each case was to make the local DNA breathing dynamics either closer to or farther from the breathing profile characteristic of a strong Fis binding site. For the modified DNA segments, we found that Fis-DNA binding, as assessed by gel-shift assay, changed in accordance with our expectations. We conclude that Fis binding is associated with DNA breathing dynamics, which in turn may be regulated by various nucleotide modifications.
Durable Resistance to Crop Pathogens: An Epidemiological Framework to Predict Risk under Uncertainty
by Giovanni Lo Iacono, Frank van den Bosch, Chris A. GilliganIncreasing the durability of crop resistance to plant pathogens is one of the key goals of virulence management. Despite the recognition of the importance of demographic and environmental stochasticity on the dynamics of an epidemic, their effects on the evolution of the pathogen and durability of resistance has not received attention. We formulated a stochastic epidemiological model, based on the Kramer-Moyal expansion of the Master Equation, to investigate how random fluctuations affect the dynamics of an epidemic and how these effects feed through to the evolution of the pathogen and durability of resistance. We focused on two hypotheses: firstly, a previous deterministic model has suggested that the effect of cropping ratio (the proportion of land area occupied by the resistant crop) on the durability of crop resistance is negligible. Increasing the cropping ratio increases the area of uninfected host, but the resistance is more rapidly broken; these two effects counteract each other. We tested the hypothesis that similar counteracting effects would occur when we take account of demographic stochasticity, but found that the durability does depend on the cropping ratio. Secondly, we tested whether a superimposed external source of stochasticity (for example due to environmental variation or to intermittent fungicide application) interacts with the intrinsic demographic fluctuations and how such interaction affects the durability of resistance. We show that in the pathosystem considered here, in general large stochastic fluctuations in epidemics enhance extinction of the pathogen. This is more likely to occur at large cropping ratios and for particular frequencies of the periodic external perturbation (stochastic resonance). The results suggest possible disease control practises by exploiting the natural sources of stochasticity.
by W. Lee Pang, Amardeep Kaur, Alexander V. Ratushny, Aleksandar Cvetkovic, Sunil Kumar, Min Pan, Adam P. Arkin, John D. Aitchison, Michael W. W. Adams, Nitin S. BaligaCopper (Cu) is an important enzyme co-factor that is also extremely toxic at high intracellular concentrations, making active efflux mechanisms essential for preventing Cu accumulation. Here, we have investigated the mechanistic role of metallochaperones in regulating Cu efflux. We have constructed a computational model of Cu trafficking and efflux based on systems analysis of the Cu stress response of Halobacterium salinarum. We have validated several model predictions via assays of transcriptional dynamics and intracellular Cu levels, discovering a completely novel function for metallochaperones. We demonstrate that in addition to trafficking Cu ions, metallochaperones also function as buffers to modulate the transcriptional responsiveness and efficacy of Cu efflux. This buffering function of metallochaperones ultimately sets the upper limit for intracellular Cu levels and provides a mechanistic explanation for previously observed Cu metallochaperone mutation phenotypes.
by Graham Rockwell, Nicholas J. Guido, George M. ChurchAdvances in computational metabolic optimization are required to realize the full potential of new in vivo metabolic engineering technologies by bridging the gap between computational design and strain development. We present Redirector, a new Flux Balance Analysis-based framework for identifying engineering targets to optimize metabolite production in complex pathways. Previous optimization frameworks have modeled metabolic alterations as directly controlling fluxes by setting particular flux bounds. Redirector develops a more biologically relevant approach, modeling metabolic alterations as changes in the balance of metabolic objectives in the system. This framework iteratively selects enzyme targets, adds the associated reaction fluxes to the metabolic objective, thereby incentivizing flux towards the production of a metabolite of interest. These adjustments to the objective act in competition with cellular growth and represent up-regulation and down-regulation of enzyme mediated reactions. Using the iAF1260 E. coli metabolic network model for optimization of fatty acid production as a test case, Redirector generates designs with as many as 39 simultaneous and 111 unique engineering targets. These designs discover proven in vivo targets, novel supporting pathways and relevant interdependencies, many of which cannot be predicted by other methods. Redirector is available as open and free software, scalable to computational resources, and powerful enough to find all known enzyme targets for fatty acid production.
ADEMA: An Algorithm to Determine Expected Metabolite Level Alterations Using Mutual Information
by A. Ercument Cicek, Ilya Bederman, Leigh Henderson, Mitchell L. Drumm, Gultekin OzsoyogluMetabolomics is a relatively new “omics” platform, which analyzes a discrete set of metabolites detected in bio-fluids or tissue samples of organisms. It has been used in a diverse array of studies to detect biomarkers and to determine activity rates for pathways based on changes due to disease or drugs. Recent improvements in analytical methodology and large sample throughput allow for creation of large datasets of metabolites that reflect changes in metabolic dynamics due to disease or a perturbation in the metabolic network. However, current methods of comprehensive analyses of large metabolic datasets (metabolomics) are limited, unlike other “omics” approaches where complex techniques for analyzing coexpression/coregulation of multiple variables are applied. This paper discusses the shortcomings of current metabolomics data analysis techniques, and proposes a new multivariate technique (ADEMA) based on mutual information to identify expected metabolite level changes with respect to a specific condition. We show that ADEMA better predicts De Novo Lipogenesis pathway metabolite level changes in samples with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) than prediction based on the significance of individual metabolite level changes. We also applied ADEMA's classification scheme on three different cohorts of CF and wildtype mice. ADEMA was able to predict whether an unknown mouse has a CF or a wildtype genotype with 1.0, 0.84, and 0.9 accuracy for each respective dataset. ADEMA results had up to 31% higher accuracy as compared to other classification algorithms. In conclusion, ADEMA advances the state-of-the-art in metabolomics analysis, by providing accurate and interpretable classification results.
Oroxylin A Inhibits Hemolysis via Hindering the Self-Assembly of α-Hemolysin Heptameric Transmembrane Pore
by Jing Dong, Jiazhang Qiu, Yu Zhang, Chongjian Lu, Xiaohan Dai, Jianfeng Wang, Hongen Li, Xin Wang, Wei Tan, Mingjing Luo, Xiaodi Niu, Xuming DengAlpha-hemolysin (α-HL) is a self-assembling, channel-forming toxin produced by most Staphylococcus aureus strains as a 33.2-kDa soluble monomer. Upon binding to a susceptible cell membrane, the monomer self-assembles to form a 232.4-kDa heptamer that ultimately causes host cell lysis and death. Consequently, α-HL plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of S. aureus infections, such as pneumonia, mastitis, keratitis and arthritis. In this paper, experimental studies show that oroxylin A (ORO), a natural compound without anti-S. aureus activity, can inhibit the hemolytic activity of α-HL. Molecular dynamics simulations, free energy calculations, and mutagenesis assays were performed to understand the formation of the α-HL-ORO complex. This combined approach revealed that the catalytic mechanism of inhibition involves the direct binding of ORO to α-HL, which blocks the conformational transition of the critical “Loop” region of the α-HL protein thereby inhibiting its hemolytic activity. This mechanism was confirmed by experimental data obtained from a deoxycholate-induced oligomerization assay. It was also found that, in a co-culture system with S. aureus and human alveolar epithelial (A549) cells, ORO could protect against α-HL-mediated injury. These findings indicate that ORO hinders the lytic activity of α-HL through a novel mechanism, which should facilitate the design of new and more effective antibacterial agents against S. aureus.
by Jeromos Vukov, Flávio L. Pinheiro, Francisco C. Santos, Jorge M. PachecoThe conundrum of cooperation has received increasing attention during the last decade. In this quest, the role of altruistic punishment has been identified as a mechanism promoting cooperation. Here we investigate the role of altruistic punishment on the emergence and maintenance of cooperation in structured populations exhibiting connectivity patterns recently identified as key elements of social networks. We do so in the framework of Evolutionary Game Theory, employing the Prisoner's Dilemma and the Stag-Hunt metaphors to model the conflict between individual and collective interests regarding cooperation. We find that the impact of altruistic punishment strongly depends on the ratio q/p between the cost of punishing a defecting partner (q) and the actual punishment incurred by the partner (p). We show that whenever q/p<1, altruistic punishment turns out to be detrimental for cooperation for a wide range of payoff parameters, when compared to the scenario without punishment. The results imply that while locally, the introduction of peer punishment may seem to reduce the chances of free-riding, realistic population structure may drive the population towards the opposite scenario. Hence, structured populations effectively reduce the expected beneficial contribution of punishment to the emergence of cooperation which, if not carefully dosed, may in fact hinder the chances of widespread cooperation.