The Gore lab uses experimentally tractable laboratory microcosms to explore how interactions between individuals drives the evolution and ecology of communities. 

Three primary areas drive research in the group:
  • How do populations behave at "tipping points"?  Might it be possible to get advance warning of an impending ecosystem collapse?
  • How can cooperative behaviors evolve?  How do ecological factors such as spatial dynamics and interactions between species influence the evolution of cooperation?
  • What determines the diversity in communities?

What conditions favor the evolution of cooperative behaviors? We use microbes such as yeast and bacteria to study how evolution can favor cooperative behaviors. As a postdoctoral fellow in the van Oudenaarden Lab Jeff developed sucrose metabolism in yeast as a model cooperative system (Gore et al, Nature (2009). In this study, we found that cooperators have preferential access to the sugar that they create, thus allowing the cooperators to survive even when in the presence of cheaters.
How does spatial structure affect the evolution of cooperation?Spatial structure is widely believed to influence the ease of evolving cooperative behaviors, although the dependence on the nature of the cooperative interaction and the kind of  spatial arrangements  is unknown. We have recently demonstrated experimentally that range expansions can favor cooperation in surprising ways (Datta et al, PNAS (2013)). 

What determines the diversity of multi-species microbial communities? 
Microbial communities display remarkable diversity, and this diversity plays a key role in the functioning of the community. A major focus of research in the group is directed towards developing a bottom-up understanding of how these multi-species communities form and function. For example, we are studying the degree to which pairwise competitive outcomes allows for the prediction of survival when bacterial species are placed in competition with a larger number of species (Friedman et al, in submission).
How does competition between species influence cooperation within a species?The vast majority of microbial studies probing cooperation in the laboratory study a single species in isolation. As a first step towards understanding the more complicated dynamics in real ecosystems, we explored how bacterial competition changes cooperation within a yeast population. We found a very general mechanism by which competition between species favors cooperation within a species (Celiker and Gore, Molecular Systems Biology (2012)).  
Who:  Hasan
What does the cooperative nature of antibiotic resistance mean for the evolution of resistance?  Bacterial resistance to penicillin and related antibiotics is obtained by expressing a protein that degrades the antibiotic, thus removing a public bad.  We are exploring the consequences of this cooperative behavior for the evolution of increased resistance (Artemova et al, MSB (2015)). We also found that this cooperative behavior is susceptible to "cheating" (Yurtsev, Chao, et al, Molecular Systems Biology (2013)),and also that it is possible for resistant bacteria to form a mutualism to survive multi-drug environments (Yurtsev*, Conwill*, et al, PNAS (2016)).

Gore Laboratory
Department of Physics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Physics of Living Systems Group
400 Technology Square, NE46-602
Cambridge, MA 02139
Department of Physics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Physics of Living Systems @MIT

How does migration influence the stability of populations?Migration between sub-populations is expected to have significant effects on the rate of population collapse, but there is disagreement regarding the cases in which migration stabilizes or destabilizes populations. Migration may allow neighboring populations to "re-seed" regions after population collapse, but migration may also lead to an undesirable synchronization between population. We are exploring this question experimentally by studying the stability of microbial populations that are coupled via controlled migration.
What are the dynamics before the collapse of a population?
Theory from nonlinear dynamics argues that there are characteristic behaviors of complex systems before "tipping points". We have made a significant effort in exploring these signatures of critical slowing down in a number of different experimental systems. We first demonstrated that changes in the fluctuations of a population can be used to anticipate an impending collapse (Dai et al, Science (2012); Chen et al, Nature Comm (2013)). Next we showed that there are spatial patterns that emerge before collapse (Dai et al, Nature (2013)). Since then we have extended these ideas to cell decision-making (Axelrod et al, eLife (2015)), honey bee colonies, and intertidal communities at field sites on islands in Italy.

Funding Sources

 Ecological Systems Biology