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 One step closer to reality
20.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie

nachricht The dark side of cichlid fish: from cannibal to caregiver
20.04.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>