Published on Wed Aug 11 2021

Stress-induced collective behavior leads to the formation of multicellular structures and the survival of the unicellular alga Chlamydomonas

Carpentier, F. d., Maes, A., Marchand, C. H., Chung, C., Durand, C., Crozet, P., Lemaire, S. D., Danon, A.

Multicellular organisms must activate defense systems, which involve collective behaviors between individual organisms. In the unicellular model alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, the existence and the function of collective behavior mechanisms in response to stress remain largely unknown.

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Abstract

Depending on their nature, living organisms use various strategies to adapt to environmental stress conditions. Multicellular organisms implement a set of reactions involving signaling and cooperation between different types of cells. Unicellular organisms on the other hand must activate defense systems, which involve collective behaviors between individual organisms. In the unicellular model alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, the existence and the function of collective behavior mechanisms in response to stress remain largely unknown. Here we report the discovery of a mechanism of abiotic stress response that Chlamydomonas can trigger to form large multicellular structures that can comprise several thousand cells. We show that these aggregates constitute an effective bulwark within which the cells are efficiently protected from the toxic environment. We have generated the first family of mutants that aggregate spontaneously, the socializer mutants (saz), of which we describe here in detail saz1. We took advantage of the saz mutants to implement a large scale multiomics approach that allowed us to show that aggregation is not the result of passive agglutination, but rather genetic reprogramming and substantial modification of the secretome. The reverse genetic analysis we conducted on some of the most promising candidates allowed us to identify the first positive and negative regulators of aggregation and to make hypotheses on how this process is controlled in Chlamydomonas.