Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Novel living system recreates predator-prey interaction

15.04.2008
The hunter-versus-hunted phenomenon exemplified by a pack of lionesses chasing down a lonely gazelle has been recreated in a Petri dish with lowly bacteria.

Working with colleagues at Caltech, Stanford and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a Duke University bioengineer has developed a living system using genetically altered bacteria that he believes can provide new insights into how the population levels of prey influence the levels of predators, and vice-versa.

The Duke experiment is an example of a synthetic gene circuit, where researchers load new "programming" into bacteria to make them perform new functions. Such re-programmed bacteria could see a wide variety of applications in medicine, environmental cleanup and biocomputing. In this particular Duke study, researchers rewrote the software of the common bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli.) to form a mutually dependent living circuit of predator and prey.

The bacterial predators don't actually eat the prey, however. The two populations control each others' suicide rates.

... more about:
»Living »ecosystem »predator-prey »prey

“We created a synthetic ecosystem made up of two distinct populations of E. coli, each with its own specific set of programming and each with the ability to affect the existence of the other,” said Lingchong You, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering and member of Duke’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy. “This ecosystem is quite similar to the traditional predator-prey relationship seen in nature and may allow us to explore the dynamics of interacting populations in a predictable manner.”

The results of You’s study appear April 15 in the journal Molecular Systems Biology. The research was supported by National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

This field of study, known as synthetic biology, emerged on the scientific scene around 2000, and many of the systems created since have involved the reprogramming of single bacteria. The current circuit is unique in that two different populations of reprogrammed bacteria live in the same ecosystem and are dependent on each other for survival.

“The key to the success of this kind of circuit is the ability of the two populations to communicate with each other,” You said. “We created bacteria representing the predators and the prey, with each having the ability to secrete chemicals into their shared ecosystem that can protect or kill.”

Central to the operation of this circuit are the numbers of predator and prey cells relative to each other in their controlled environment. Variations in the number of cells of each type trigger the activation of the reprogrammed genes, stimulating the creation of different chemicals.

In this system, low levels of prey in the environment cause the activation of a “suicide” gene in the predator, causing them to die. However, as the population of prey increases, it secretes into the environment a chemical that, when it achieves a high enough concentration, stimulates a gene in the predator to produce an “antidote” to the suicide gene. This leads to an increase in predators, which in turn causes the predator to produce another chemical which enters the prey cell and activates a “killer” gene, causing the prey to die.

“This system is much like the natural world, where one species – the prey – suffers from growth of another species – the predator,” You said. “Likewise, the predator benefits from the growth of the prey.”

This circuit is not an exact representation of the predator-prey relationship in nature because the prey stops the programmed suicide of predator instead of becoming food, and both populations compete for the same “food” in their world. Nevertheless, You believes that the circuit will become a useful tool for biologic researchers.

“This system provides clear mapping between genetics and the dynamics of population change, which will help in future studies of how molecular interactions can influence population changes, a central theme of ecology,” You said. “There are literally unlimited ways to change variables in this system to examine in detail the interplay between environment, gene regulation and population dynamics.

“With additional control over the mixing or segregating of different populations, we should be able to program bacteria to mimic the development and differentiation of more complex organisms,” he said.

Richard Merritt | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.duke.edu

Further reports about: Living ecosystem predator-prey prey

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers reveal new details on aged brain, Alzheimer's and dementia
21.11.2017 | Allen Institute

nachricht Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development
21.11.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Silicatforschung ISC

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

From Hannover around the world and to the Mars: LZH delivers laser for ExoMars 2020

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Borophene shines alone as 2-D plasmonic material

21.11.2017 | Materials Sciences

Penn study identifies new malaria parasites in wild bonobos

21.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>