|What are Alarmones?|
Civilizations, societies, and groups wrestle with the concept of "a duty to warn".
In situations where a member of the civilization, society, or group detects a danger to one or all members of that civilization, society, or group, the duty concept kicks in.
During discourse between the general populace and their government, the format, structure, and/or appearance as to what that duty looks like varies from time to time.
Sometimes they wrestle about the details of the issue of "a duty to warn" over substantial spans of time.
Finally, the rubber meets the road when the uncertainty, religion and law are finally divided at the center line into one side and the other (Uncertainty, Religion, and Law).
A lot of that is altered until, sometimes, "duty" is diminished to the point that no warning is necessary.
To inform by warning of a danger becomes no longer a requirement, it becomes an intrusion (e.g. global warming).
II. The Microbial Alarmone
That human cultural back and forth is not a dynamic that takes place in the microbiome (the world of microbes).
Microbiologists point out that this built-in duty to warn via alarmones has been that way for eons:
"All known alarmones are ribonucleotides or ribonucleotide derivatives that are synthesized when cells are under stress conditions, triggering a stringent response that affects major processes such as replication, gene expression, and metabolism. The ample phylogenetic distribution of alarmones (e.g., cAMP, Ap(n)A, cGMP, AICAR, and ZTP) suggests that they are very ancient molecules that may have already been present in cellular systems prior to the evolutionary divergence of the Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukarya domains. Their chemical structure, wide biological distribution, and functional role in highly conserved cellular processes support the possibility that these modified nucleotides are
molecular fossils of an epoch in the evolution of chemical signaling and metabolite sensing during which RNA molecules played a much more conspicuous role in biological catalysis and genetic information."
(Alarmones as Vestiges of a Bygone RNA World, emphasis added). Automatic warning systems, eh?:
"Most microbial life exists in a non proliferating state of quiescence that enables survival during nutrient limitation and in stressful environments. A major challenge facing a quiescent cell is how to minimize energy consumption so as to maximize available resources over a potentially extended period of time."
(The alarmones (p)ppGpp directly regulate translation initiation during entry into quiescence). Population control, it would seem, even to the degree of "quiescence" is not beyond normal microbial activity.
III. The Alarmones of Civilizations, Societies, and Groups
The early development of microbial warning systems is probably similar to its early development in civilizations, societies, and groups.
However, the microbial warning system durability and usage is not as robust or long lasting in humans:
"In other words, a society does not ever die 'from natural causes', but always dies from suicide or murder --- and nearly always from the former, as this chapter has shown." [Toynbee]
"In the Study Toynbee examined the rise and fall of 26 civilizations in the course of human history, and he concluded that they rose by responding successfully to challenges under the leadership of creative minorities composed of elite leaders. Civilizations declined when their leaders stopped responding creatively, and the civilizations then sank owing to the sins of nationalism, militarism, and the tyranny of a despotic minority." [Encyclopedia Britannica]
(How To Enjoy The End Of Bad Choices). Our current civilization, society, and group behavior is an illustration of that:
"Today's IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership. With fact upon fact, this report reveals how people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change. Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone – now. Many ecosystems are at the point of no return – now. Unchecked carbon pollution is forcing the world's most vulnerable on a frog march to destruction – now. The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership is criminal."
(What The Latest  UN Climate Report Says About Our Future, emphasis added). Our civilization, society, and group alarmones are NOT bringing about "a non proliferating state of quiescence".
The microbial warning system gets the message out, so why doesn't good bio-mimicry exist in our current civilization (On The Peak of Intelligence - 2)?
The previous post in this series is here.
Ode to the alarmones: