Bacteria Use Chat to Play the ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ Game in Deciding Their Fate. When faced with life-or-death situations, bacteria — and maybe even human cells — use an extremely sophisticated version of “game theory” to consider their options and decide upon the best course of action, scientists reported in San Diego March 27. In a presentation at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), they said microbes “play” a version of the classic “Prisoner’s Dilemma” game.
José Onuchic, Ph.D., who headed the research team, said these and other new insights into the “chat” sessions that bacteria use to communicate among themselves — information about cell stress, the colony density (quorum-sensing peptides) and the stress status and inclinations of neighboring cells (peptide pheromones) — could have far-reaching medical applications.
"Just as in the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma game, the bacteria have to weigh the pros and cons of their decisions," said Onuchic. "The bacteria make a decision based not only on what it knows about its own stress and environment, but it also has to think about what the other bacteria might do. So this is like the Prisoner’s Dilemma being played with 1 trillion cells in a colony instead of just two people."
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