Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Constricting without a string: Bacteria gone to the worms divide differently

10.10.2016

A new study provides fascinating insights into how bacteria divide. This shows not only how little we know about bacteria outside of the lab, but might also bring us one step closer towards the development of new antibiotics.

Even though the diversity and importance of microorganisms in all ecosystems has been established long time ago, our knowledge in many areas of microbiology is still limited. One of those areas is bacterial cell division, detailing how cells reproduce, creating two daughter cells from one. One of the key proteins involved in this process is FtsZ. Like a rubber band, FtsZ creates a ring around the cell and virtually pinches it off, thus initiating cell division. That’s the theory, according to the current state of knowledge. But things can be quite different, as the study on hand shows.


The rod-shaped bacteria densely populating the surface of the worm belong to the Gammaproteobacteria. These comprise members of our gut microbiome but also some serious pathogens.

Nikolaus Leisch


The nematode Robbea hypermnestra mainly occurs in Caribbean shallow water sediments. Leisch and colleagues collected their samples at the field station of the Smithsonian Institute in Belize.

Nikolaus Lei

“Nearly all research on this topic was done on a handful of model organisms which can be cultivated in the lab”, explains first author Niko Leisch from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen. As a result, many aspects of microbial life remain undiscovered. Leisch, together with the lead scientist Silvia Bulgheresi from the University of Vienna and Tanneke den Blaauwen from the University of Amsterdam, therefore uses organisms that cannot be cultivated in the laboratory. They study bacteria which live as symbionts on the surface of a small nematode. The worm lives in a symbiosis with only a single species of bacteria, which form a dense but highly organized “coat” on the surface of the worm. That’s why, using these worms, we can study pure cultures from the environment”, Leisch explains the “trick”.

The bacterium in question divides longitudinally, which is already highly unusual for a rod-shaped bacterium. On top of that, the scientists found out that the bacteria divide asymmetrically. The division process starts where the cell touches the worm. The cell pole which is directed towards the environment subsequently follows.

„Microbiology textbooks tell us that bacterial cells assemble a ring of FtsZ before division”, Leisch continues. “Despite using high-resolution microscopic approaches with specific dyes, we couldn’t find this ring.” FtsZ was present, but the proteins only accumulated as small patches along the length axis. “As no ring is formed, these patches of FtsZ must individually exert a force to divide the cell. This has so far not been observed and gives rise to many new questions. For example, how is the necessary force generated to divide the cell?”

Why all of this matters? “The majority of what we know nowadays about bacteria, their growth and reproduction comes from the work from cultivable model organisms”, says Leisch. “But especially the work on bacteria from the environment done in the last few years has shown again and again how the cell division machinery is much more flexible and complex than what we though. And a better understanding of growth and division of bacteria are crucial for the development of potential new antibiotics.”

The scientists suspect that the worm on which the bacteria live influences their cell division. It seems to control its symbiotic residents quite well. For example, it somehow manages to keep its head and tail clear of the otherwise dense coat of bacteria. “We still don’t know how it does that”, says Leisch.

“Resistance to antibiotics is a big issue nowadays. The development of new antibiotics aims towards inhibiting growth and reproduction of bacteria. This worm obviously manages to do just that. If we can understand how it accomplishes that, it would be a great step forward.”

The unusual cell division of this bacterium is probably an adaptation to the symbiotic lifestyle, Leisch and his colleagues suspect. But to better understand the processes and their importance they emphasize that more studies need to be performed on such non-model organisms.

Original publication
Nikolaus Leisch, Nika Pende, Philipp M. Weber, Harald R. Gruber-Vodicka, Jolanda 

Verheul, Norbert O. E. Vischer, Sophie S. Abby, Benedikt Geier, Tanneke den Blaauwen and Silvia Bulgheresi: Asynchronous division by non-ring FtsZ in the gammaproteobacterial symbiont of Robbea hypermnestra. Nature Microbiology.
DOI: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.182 



Participating institutes
Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Celsiusstrasse 1, 28359 Bremen, Germany
University of Vienna, Department of Ecogenetics and Systems Biology, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria 

Bacterial Cell Biology, Swammerdam Institute of Life Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Boelelaan 1108, 1081 HZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands 


Please direct your queries to

Dr. Nikolaus Leisch
Phone: +49 421 2028 822
E-Mail: nleisch(at)mpi-bremen.de

or the press office

Dr. Fanni Aspetsberger
Dr. Manfred Schlösser
Phone: +49 421 2028 704
E-Mail: presse(at)mpi-bremen.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.mpi-bremen.de

Dr. Fanni Aspetsberger | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Making fuel out of thick air
08.12.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht ‘Spying’ on the hidden geometry of complex networks through machine intelligence
08.12.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Midwife and signpost for photons

11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas

11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

PhoxTroT: Optical Interconnect Technologies Revolutionized Data Centers and HPC Systems

11.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>