Genes that make bacteria make up their minds

Mar 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 or producing the "glue" that forms the biofilm)?

In the prestigious 2009 Fleming lecture, given at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting in Harrogate, (Monday 30 March) Dr Nicola Stanley-Wall from the University of Dundee explained that it is important to understand how biofilms form as they are often the basis of chronic infections and also of bioremediation processes. More detailed information on how develop into biofilms will allow scientists to work on alternative strategies to treat biofilm related infections and may improve technologies for waste water treatment plants or microbial fuel cells.

Using a soil bacterium called Bacillus subtilis, Dr Stanley-Wall has investigated the genes and proteins required for biofilms to develop. She has shown that a protein called DegU helps the individual bacteria to "decide" whether to form a biofilm or not.

"Presumably the bacteria need to achieve the best outcome in response to changes in environmental conditions. DegU protein enables the bacteria to switch between swarming movement and the production of biofilm materials to suit the particular circumstances" said Dr Stanley-Wall.

Source: Society for General Microbiology

Explore further: For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

No hiding place for infecting bacteria

Mar 16, 2009

Scientists in Colorado have discovered a new approach to prevent bacterial infections from taking hold. Writing in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, Dr Quinn Parks and colleagues describe how they used enzymes against produc ...

Small molecule triggers bacterial community

Dec 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 ...

Biofilms use chemical weapons

Jul 23, 2008

Bacteria rarely come as loners; more often they grow in crowds and squat on surfaces where they form a community together. These so-called biofilms develop on any surface that bacteria can attach themselves ...

Bacterial slime helps cause serious disease

May 05, 2008

Leptospirosis is a serious but neglected emerging disease that infects humans through contaminated water. Now research published in the May issue of the journal Microbiology shows for the first time how bacteria that cause ...

Recommended for you

For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

8 hours ago

From far away, the top of a leaf looks like one seamless surface; however, up close, that smooth exterior is actually made up of a patchwork of cells in a variety of shapes and sizes. Interested in how these ...

Adventurous bacteria

9 hours ago

To reproduce or to conquer the world? Surprisingly, bacteria also face this problem. Theoretical biophysicists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have now shown how these organisms should ...

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

12 hours ago

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

Chimpanzees prefer firm, stable beds

Chimpanzees may select a certain type of wood, Ugandan Ironwood, over other options for its firm, stable, and resilient properties to make their bed, according to a study published April 16, 2014 in the open-access ...