United we stand; divided we fall

July 15, 2009

In the July 15th issue of G&D, Dr. Roberto Kolter (Harvard Medical School) and colleagues make the unprecedented observation of paracrine signaling during Bacillus subtilis biofilm formation.

The Gram-positive soil bacterium, B. subtilis, relies on quorum sensing and the signaling molecule, surfactin, to trigger extracellular matrix production and biofilm formation at critical cell densities. Dr. Kolter and colleagues demonstrated that a process of stochastic differentiation takes place during biofilm formation leading to a subpopulation of cells that produces surfactin.

Strikingly, the cells that produce surfactin are, themselves, unable to respond to it, while the cells that respond to surfactin become unable to produce it. Paracrine signaling represents a novel mechanism to maintain two differentiated cell populations within this larger bacterial cell community.

While B. subtilis is not, itself, a pathogenic agent, Dr. Kolter is confident that "Knowing that different subpopulations arise not only by stochastic processes but also by directional cell-to-cell signaling opens the door for the development of strategies that would reverse the differentiation in, for example, antibiotic persister cells."

Source: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (news : web)

Explore further: Regulating hematopoietic stem cell homeostasis and leukemogenesis

Related Stories

New molecular insight into vertebrate brain development

November 17, 2008

In the December 1st issue of G&D, Dr. Fred H. Gage (The Salk Institute for Biological Studies) and colleagues reveal a role for the Hippo signaling pathway in the regulation of vertebrate neural development, identifying new ...

Small molecule triggers bacterial community

December 22, 2008

While bacterial cells tend to be rather solitary individuals, they are also known to form intricately structured communities called biofilms. But until now, no one has known the mechanisms that cause isolated bacteria to ...

Genes that make bacteria make up their minds

March 30, 2009

Bacteria are single cell organisms with no nervous system or brain. So how do individual bacterial cells living as part of a complex community called a biofilm "decide" between different physiological processes (such as movement ...

Recommended for you

Winter season reverses outcome of fruit fly reproduction

November 24, 2015

Male fruit flies could find their chances of fathering offspring radically reduced if they are last in the queue to mate with promiscuous females before winter arrives, according to new University of Liverpool research.

New insight into leaf shape diversity

November 24, 2015

Many of us probably remember the punnett squares by which we were introduced to the idea of genetic inheritance in school: a dominant allele in each of my brown-eyed parents hides a recessive allele that explains my blue ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.