Researchers looking inside a pathogenic soil bacterium have found an organelle, a subcellular pouch, existing independently from the plasma membrane. The discovery within a prokaryotic organism challenges the theory on the origin of eukaryotic organelles and suggests a targeted approach to killing many disease-causing organisms.
Acidocalcisomes (the black spheres) as viewed in a trypanosome, a family of parasites that cause African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis and the first organisms where Docampo found this organelle. The cell is approximately 10 microns long and 4 microns wide. Courtesy of Kildare Miranda
"The organelle we found in the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens is practically identical to the organelle called acidocalcisome in unicellular eukaryotes," said Roberto Docampo, a professor of veterinary pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Docampo began researching these organelles in 1994. He soon determined that a tiny granule in yeast, fungi and bacteria, thought to be for storage, was a fully operational organelle containing pyrophosphatase, a pump-like enzyme that allows proton transport. He named it an acidocalcisome for its acidic and calcium components. In 2000, he reported its existence in Plasmodium berghei, a malaria-causing eukaryotic parasite.
Jim Barlow | UIUC
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