Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Bacteria's Hidden Traffic Control


Researchers at the University of Washington map the localization pattern of nearly every protein in a bacterial cell for its entire cell cycle, a new tool for discovering how bacteria coordinate the timing and location of subcellular processes

Not unlike an urban restaurant, the success of a bacterial cell depends on three things: localization, localization and localization. But the complete set of controls by which bacteria control the movement of proteins and other essential biological materials globally within the confines of their membrane walls has been something of a mystery. Now, researchers at the University of Washington have parsed out the localization mechanisms that E. coli use to sort through and organize their subcellular components.

Janice Haney Carr/CDC

A cluster of colorized E. coli as seen under a scanning electron microscope.

"Despite their small size and relative simplicity, bacterial cells appear to possess a robust and complex level of subcellular organization, both spatially and temporally, that was once thought to only exist in more complex organisms," said Nathan Kuwada, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Paul Wiggins at the University of Washington.

"We wanted to know how many mechanisms bacteria possess to localize subcellular components, and to answer this question, we set out to image the localization pattern of nearly every protein in a bacterial cell for the entire cell cycle."

Kuwada will describe the group's findings this week at the Biophysical Society's 59th annual meeting in Baltimore, Md.

E. coli localize nearly one-fifth of their proteins to specific subcellular sites, but until now, the cell-cycle localization behavior of only a small subset of proteins had been characterized in detail.

Kuwada and his colleagues sought to remedy this by imaging an existing library of green-fluorescent protein fusions in E. coli by use of a high-throughput live-cell imaging scheme. This allowed them to image close to a thousand individual protein fusions in growing cells for 6-8 hours, providing them with hundreds of complete cell cycles for each protein.

Using custom image processing software, the researchers processed and organized the thousands of images from each experiment, allowing them to quantitatively compare the localization patterns on a genomic scale. The researchers also developed a public online database with all of their raw and processed data in a browsable and searchable form at:

Rather than a small number of patterns combining in various permutations determined by function, the researchers found that bacteria possess a large number of distinct patterns with subtle spatial and temporal differences.

For example, Kuwada and his colleagues also observed that the DNA-binding proteins were asymmetrically distributed towards the daughter cell during cell divisions, despite the morphological symmetry between parent and daughter cells.

"Although the asymmetry is somewhat weak, it is still statistically significant and we think it must have an exciting biological significance," Kuwada said. "This finding, which is only observable using our complete-cell-cycle approach, potentially has many biological consequences that we are currently trying to better understand."

Future work for Kuwada and his colleagues includes further exploring the specific mechanisms that drive subcellular organization, through targeting the behavior of specific groups of proteins such as transcription factors with increased precision.

The presentation, "Global characterization of transcription factor localization and partitioning in Escherichia coli" by Nathan J. Kuwada and Paul A. Wiggins, is at 1:45 PM, on Sunday, February 8, 2015, at the Baltimore Convention Center, in Hall C, poster 383. ABSTRACT:


Each year, the Biophysical Society Annual Meeting brings together more than 6,500 researchers working in the multidisciplinary fields representing biophysics. With more than 3,600 poster presentations, over 200 exhibits, and more than 20 symposia, the BPS Annual Meeting is the largest meeting of biophysicists in the world. Despite its size, the meeting retains its small-meeting flavor through its subgroup symposia, platform sessions, social activities and committee programs. The 59th Annual Meeting will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center.


The Biophysical Society invites professional journalists, freelance science writers and public information officers to attend its Annual Meeting free of charge. For press registration, contact Ellen Weiss at or Jason Bardi at 240-535-4954.


Main Meeting Page:
Itinerary planner:


The Biophysical Society, founded in 1958, is a professional, scientific Society established to encourage development and dissemination of knowledge in biophysics. The Society promotes growth in this expanding field through its annual meeting, bi-monthly journal, and committee and outreach activities. Its 9,000 members are located throughout the U.S. and the world, where they teach and conduct research in colleges, universities, laboratories, government agencies, and industry.

For more information on the Society, or the 2015 Annual Meeting, visit

Contact Information
Jason Socrates Bardi, AIP

Jason Socrates Bardi, AIP | newswise

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders
24.10.2016 | Baylor College of Medicine

nachricht New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground
24.10.2016 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

New method increases energy density in lithium batteries

24.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>