Like human societies--think New York City--bacterial colonies have immense diversity among their inhabitants, often generated in the absence of specific selection pressures, according to a paper published ahead of print in the Journal of Bacteriology.
Microbiologists have long been aware of this phenomenon, and they credit it as a reason microbes have been able to colonize almost every conceivable terrestrial habitat from underground Antarctic lakes to hot springs to intensely radioactive pools, says corresponding author Ivan Matic, of INSERM, Paris. But none had tried to track it at the level of single cells.
"By using up to date experimental tools that allowed us to follow individual living cells, we were able to enter into this amazing, beautiful world of bacterial multicellular structures," says Matic.
"We observed massive phenotypic diversification in aging Escherichia coli colonies. Some variants showed improved capacity to produce biofilms, whereas others were able to use different nutrients, or to tolerate antibiotics, or oxidative stress, compared to the ancestral strain."
In the study, the researchers started each colony with a small number of identical cells, and observed them as they grew and as the colony aged. An aging colony is one where growth has stopped, because nutrients have been exhausted and/or toxins have accumulated.
"At this point most cells in the colony stop dividing and dead cells accumulate," says Matic.
Even in the growth phase, a colony is environmentally diverse. For example, since it grows on a solid medium, nutrients diffuse from the bottom up, resulting in a nutritional gradient with lower levels at greater elevation above the medium.
Similarly, oxygen and UV radiation decline with distance from the colony's surface, so that cells close to the top have ample oxygen, while those well below exist under anaerobic conditions.
In the elderly colony, the rising toxins and falling nutrients are also not homogeneously distributed. For example, despite general nutrient depletion, new nutrients become available from dead cells.
"We showed that the rare survivors of a senescent colony are very diverse and are different from their ancestors," says Matic. "We found different metabolic capacities, different levels of stress resistance, improved capacity to produce biofilms, and the ability to use different nutrients.
Some of these capacities probably evolved due to obvious selection pressures, such as utilization of alternative energy sources."
Journal of Bacteriology is a publication of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). The ASM is the largest single life science society, composed of over 39,000 scientists and health professionals. Its mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.
Jim Sliwa | Eurek Alert!
Polymers Based on Boron?
18.01.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production
18.01.2018 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
18.01.2018 | Life Sciences
18.01.2018 | Life Sciences
18.01.2018 | Earth Sciences