Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bacterial Plasmids -- the Freeloading and the Heavy-Lifters -- Balance the High Price of Disease

06.02.2012
Studying self-replicating genetic units, called plasmids, found in one of the world's widest-ranging pathogenic soil bacteria -- the crown-gall-disease-causing microorganism Agrobacterium tumefaciens -- Indiana University biologists are showing how freeloading, mutant derivatives of these plasmids benefit while the virulent, disease-causing plasmids do the heavy-lifting of initiating infection in plant hosts.

The research confirms that the ability of bacteria to cause disease comes at a significant cost that is only counterbalanced by the benefits they experience from infected host organisms.

A. tumefaciens is widely studied for its remarkable biology not only because it causes disease in over 140 genera of broadleaf plants, including fruit trees, grapes, roses and walnut trees, but also because it is considered one of the most important tools for plant biotechnology: It is the only organism known to routinely engage in inter-kingdom lateral gene transfer. A. tumefaciens infects host plants by transferring a portion of its own DNA into plant cells, and this integrated bacterial DNA is expressed in the plant cells, leading diseased plants to develop tumors and produce resources that benefit the pathogen.

"We've identified two types of costs the plant pathogen A. tumefaciens pays for traits conferred by genes carried on plasmids," said lead author Thomas G. Platt, a postdoctoral researcher in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biology. "There is a relatively low cost of maintaining the tumor-inducing virulence plasmid, but there is also a dramatically large cost of expressing the genes that are required to infect plants."

Plants with crown gall disease can also benefit a second type of plasmid that can be found in A. tumefaciens: Nonpathogenic plasmids that lack the genes required to infect plants, yet are still able to benefit from the breakdown of nutrient resources released by infected plant tissue.

"These nonvirulent strains are able to freeload on public goods produced by host plants infected by their disease-causing relatives, while themselves avoiding the burdens associated with A. tumefaciens' virulence plasmid," Platt explained. "And our results suggest that at least one source of the selective pressure favoring the spread of these avirulent mutants stems from those high costs associated with the expression of the genes underlying pathogenesis."

Scientists are especially interested in freeloading or cheating strains of bacteria as a possible means of constraining infection caused by more aggressive, pathogenic strains. Creating something of a balancing act, mutant cheater strains may counter or constrain virulence as they maintain higher fitness by not having to invest in the cellular machinery virulent bacteria employ to infect hosts.

"The population dynamics and maintenance of bacterial plasmids depend on the costs they impose and benefits they confer on the cells that host them, and those costs and benefits are environmentally context dependent," Platt said. "The outcome of competition between two agrobacteria strains such as the ones we have been studying varies with the environmental conditions in which they are competing, and this genotype-by-genotype-by-environment interaction suggests that the virulence plasmid may be subject to selective pressures that vary over space and time."

Platt and IU biology professors James D. Bever and Clay Fuqua recently published the measured fitness costs imposed by plasmids to host cells, under certain environmental conditions, in the research article "A cooperative virulence plasmid imposes a high fitness cost under conditions that induce pathogenesis," that appeared in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. That work will be expanded upon in research accepted for publication in an upcoming edition of the journal Evolution, where the team further examines how cooperation benefits depend on resource availability and the importance of ecological dynamics, including resource consumption and population growth, on the evolution of cooperative traits.

To speak with Platt or for more information, please contact Steve Chaplin, IU Communications, at 812-856-1896 or stjchap@iu.edu. Tweeting Indiana University science: @IndianaScience

Steve Chaplin | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.iu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>