Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


‘Clever’ DNA may help bacteria survive


Scientists have discovered that bacteria can reshape their DNA to survive dehydration.

The research, published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society Interface, shows that bacterial DNA can change from the regular double helix – known as B-DNA, to the more compact A-DNA form, when faced with hostile conditions such as dehydration.

A-DNA (left) B-DNA (right)

Crucially, scientists have pinpointed a unique process in DNA, called the B-A-B transition, which allows it to change its structure in response to environmental change. Without impacting on the ability of the bacteria to function and reproduce, this unique structural alteration sees the B-DNA change to A-DNA, and then revert back to its original B-DNA form to ensure the bacteria survive.

Associate Professor Bayden Wood, from Monash University said the study gives vital new information on how bacteria can survive periods of time in arid environments.

“Our findings may be important in understanding how dormant bacteria that are transferred from dry surfaces may become active and reproduce in the human body,’ Associate Professor Wood said.

PhD student and first author of the paper, Donna Whelan said the most common form of DNA found in most organisms is B-DNA. However, the A-form has been thought to show protective qualities to allow bacterial spores to survive high UV exposure and other extreme environmental conditions.

“Our research, which utilised infrared light to investigate the structure of DNA inside live bacteria, demonstrates that bacteria can survive by adopting the A-DNA form after the majority of water is removed – and that really is groundbreaking,” Donna Whelan said.

The new findings build on research led by Associate Professor Wood and Donna Whelan in 2011 at the Australian Synchrotron, which indicated the same B-A-B DNA transition occurs in all cell types. Significantly, the team has now discovered this change may have a biological function in bacteria, potentially assisting them to survive dehydration.

Associate Professor Bayden Wood said the ability for DNA to transform and then change back again in human cells had puzzled scientists until now.

“In human cells the DNA is tightly bound by proteins known as histones, so the fact that it can change to a different form and then change back again is fascinating. We have no biological reason for why this DNA transition happens in human cells, but we may now understand its role in bacteria,” Associate Professor Wood said.

The interdisciplinary team at Monash investigated four species of bacteria using live cells. By carefully hydrating and dehydrating the bacteria and then analysing the cells using an infrared-based technique, which detects the vibrations of DNA, the team found all four species underwent the same B-A-B transition.

Professor Julian Rood, who coordinated the microbiology aspects of the research, said that because the majority of bacteria remained fully functional after hydration and rehydration the results suggest A-DNA may have a highly evolved protective capacity to ensure survival.

“We discovered A-DNA has an amazing ability to protect and ensure life continues even under extreme stress, in this case dehydration. In our tests, even after the majority of water was removed, A-DNA kicked in and then changed back to B-DNA to help the bacteria survive,” Professor Rood said.

The next phase of the research will see the team investigate how bacteria survive other conditions such as temperature, pH levels, oxygen, nutrients and antimicrobials and discover what role the 'clever' DNA plays under these conditions.

Lucy Handford | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

Further reports about: DNA Monash ability bacteria bacterial conditions dehydration function structure transition

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease
27.11.2015 | Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg

nachricht Increased carbon dioxide enhances plankton growth, opposite of what was expected
27.11.2015 | Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Siemens to supply 126 megawatts to onshore wind power plants in Scotland

27.11.2015 | Press release

Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease

27.11.2015 | Life Sciences

Coming to a monitor near you: A defect-free, molecule-thick film

27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>