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!
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences