Unicellular associative conditioning: an interspecies analysis

Jose Carrasco Pujante, Carlos Bringas Roldan, Iker Malaina Celada, Maria Fedetz, Luis Martinez Fernandez, Gorka Perez-Yarza Perez-Irezabal, Maria Dolores Boyano Lopez, Mariia Berdieva, Andrew Goodkov, Jose Ignacio Lopez Fernandez de Villaverde, Shira Knafo

Research output: Working paper/PreprintPreprint


The capacity to learn new systemic behaviour is a fundamental issue to understand the adaptive mechanisms involved in cellular evolution. We have recently observed, in a preliminary analysis, the emergence of conditioned behaviour in individual amoebae cells. In these experiments, cells were able to acquire new migratory conduct and remember it for long periods of their cellular cycle, forgetting it later on. Here, following a similar conceptual framework of Pavlov’s experiments, we have exhaustively studied the migration trajectories of more than 2000 individual cells belonging to three different species: Amoeba proteus, Metamoeba leningradensis, and Amoeba borokensis. Fundamentally, we have analysed several properties of conditioned cells, such as the intensity of the responses, the directionality persistence, the total distance traveled, the directionality ratio, the average speed, and the persistence times. We have observed that these three species can modify the systemic response to a specific stimulus by associative conditioning. Our main analysis shows that such new behaviour is very robust and presents a similar structure of migration patterns in the three species, which was characterized by the presence of conditioning for long periods, remarkable straightness in their trajectories and strong directional persistence. Our quantitative results, compared with other studies on complex cellular responses in bacteria, protozoa, fungus-like organisms and metazoans, allow us to conclude that cellular associative conditioning might be a widespread characteristic of unicellular organisms. This finding could be essential to understand some key evolutionary principles involved in increasing the cellular adaptive fitness to microenvironments.
Original languageEnglish GB
StatePublished - 21 Oct 2020

Publication series

PublisherCold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press


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