Thursday, October 26, 2023

Pathogenic Affects on Social Behavior


When different pathogens move throughout a population, people are able to adapt and adjust in order to fight them off. Research that was conducted at Harvard shows insight on how pathogens are changing social behaviors of different organisms. It is not known what happens inside an organism's brain, but species that range from fruit flies to primates are exhibiting changes in social behavior due to infection-induced changes. In one species specifically, the organism was found to be loners, and consistently showed isolating behaviors, but when infected by a pathogenic strain of bacteria (Pseudomonas aeruginosa) contaminated this species, they became more interested in one another and increased in their mating. The researchers then isolated messenger RNA from the pair of neurons, examining how they are different post-infection, and discovered that the pheromone receptor STR-44 was significantly upregulated in infected worms. Looking beyond worms, it was also pointed out that many different GPCRs for chemicals are encoded in the genomes of several animals, which are used to assess environmental cues. Regulation of these receptors may be a common strategy for animals to change their social behavior in the presence of a pathogen stressor present.

Taihong Wu (from left), Minghai Ge, and Professor Yun Zhang.

Ultimately, this change along with other changes in behavior increases genetic diversity within a population. It is interesting to think about how being infected by a pathogen can completely change and alter an organism's behavior. Maybe there are different pathogens out there that can be contracted that can increase a species fitness in the environment and make them a smaller target to their predators. This discovery can possibly lead to strengthening different species' fitness' by changing social behaviors that may have caused their species to go extinct previously.

1 comment:

  1. This is so interesting! I wonder which animal species this could be beneficial for...maybe endangered ones?