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Science 321 (5886): 256-259

Copyright © 2008 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Genetic Determinants of Self Identity and Social Recognition in Bacteria

Karine A. Gibbs,1* Mark L. Urbanowski,2* E. Peter Greenberg1{dagger}

Abstract: The bacterium Proteus mirabilis is capable of movement on solid surfaces by a type of motility called swarming. Boundaries form between swarming colonies of different P. mirabilis strains but not between colonies of a single strain. A fundamental requirement for boundary formation is the ability to discriminate between self and nonself. We have isolated mutants that form boundaries with their parent. The mutations map within a six-gene locus that we term ids for identification of self. Five of the genes in the ids locus are required for recognition of the parent strain as self. Three of the ids genes are interchangeable between strains, and two encode specific molecular identifiers.

1 Department of Microbiology, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.
2 Department of Microbiology, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.

* These authors contributed equally to this work.

{dagger} To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: epgreen{at}u.washington.edu


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