Scientists visualize how bacteria talk to one another

Nov 08, 2009
Scientists visualize how bacteria talk to one another
Peiter C. Dorrestein, PhD is a researcher at University of California - San Diego. Credit: UC San Diego School of Medicine

Using imaging mass spectrometry, researchers at the University of California, San Diego have developed tools that will enable scientists to visualize how different cell populations of cells communicate. Their study shows how bacteria talk to one another - an understanding that may lead to new therapeutic discoveries for diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes and allergies.

In the paper published in the November 8 issue of Nature , Pieter C. Dorrestein, PhD, assistant professor at UC San Diego's Skaggs School of Pharmacy and , and colleagues describe an approach they developed to describe how interface with other bacteria in a laboratory setting. Dorrestein and post-doctoral students Yu-Liang Yang and Yuquan Xu, along with Paul Straight from Texas A&M University, utilized technology called natural product MALDI-TOF (Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization-Time of Flight) imaging to uniquely translate the language of bacteria.

Microbial interactions, such as signaling, have generally been considered by scientists in terms of an individual, predominant chemical activity. However, a single bacterial species is capable of producing many bioactive compounds that can alter neighboring organisms. The approach developed by the UCSD research team enabled them to observe the effects of multiple microbial signals in an interspecies interaction, revealing that chemical "conversations" between bacteria involve many signals that function simultaneously.

"Scientists tend to study the metabolic exchange of bacteria, for example penicillin, one molecule at a time," said Dorrestein. "Actually, such exchanges by microbes are much more complex, involving 10, 20 or even 50 molecules at one time. Now scientists can capture that complexity."

The researchers anticipate that this tool will enable development of a bacterial dictionary that translates the output signals. "Our ability to translate the metabolic output of microbes is becoming more important, as they outnumber other cells in our body by a 10 to one margin," Dorrestein explain. "We want to begin to understand how those bacteria interact with our cells. This is a powerful tool that may ultimately aid in understanding these interactions."

In order to communicate, bacteria secrete molecules that tell other microbes, in effect, "I am irritated, stop growing," "I need more nutrients" or "come closer, I can supply you with nutrients." Other molecules are secreted that may turn off the body's defense mechanisms. The team is currently mapping hundreds of such bacterial interactions. Their hope is that this approach will also enable them to translate these bacterial-mediated mechanisms in the future.

Understanding the means by which microorganism cells talk to one another will facilitate therapeutic discovery, according to Dorrestein. For instance, knowing how microbes interact with human immune cells could lead to discovery of novel immune system modulators, and how these molecules control bacterial growth may lead to new anti-invectives. Both are active areas of investigation in his laboratory.

Source: University of California - San Diego (news : web)

Explore further: Two-armed control of ATR, a master regulator of the DNA damage checkpoint

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Toward a Rosetta Stone for Microbes' Secret Language

Dec 10, 2007

Scientists are on the verge of decoding the special chemical language that bacteria use to “talk” to each other, British researchers report in a commentary article that appeared in the November issue of ...

How flesh-eating bacteria attack the body's immune system

Aug 13, 2008

"Flesh-eating" or "Strep" bacteria are able to survive and spread in the body by degrading a key immune defense molecule, according to researchers at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine and Skaggs ...

New bacterial species found in human mouth

Aug 11, 2008

Scientists have discovered a new species of bacteria in the mouth. The finding could help scientists to understand tooth decay and gum disease and may lead to better treatments, according to research published in the August ...

Recommended for you

Japanese scientist resigns over stem cell scandal

Dec 19, 2014

A researcher embroiled in a fabrication scandal that has rocked Japan's scientific establishment said Friday she would resign after failing to reproduce results of what was once billed as a ground-breaking study on ...

'Hairclip' protein mechanism explained

Dec 18, 2014

Research led by the Teichmann group on the Wellcome Genome Campus has identified a fundamental mechanism for controlling protein function. Published in the journal Science, the discovery has wide-ranging implications for bi ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

fixer
not rated yet Nov 08, 2009
Well, yes this is quite well known, but the therapy is already established.
I call this kind of research "dotting the I's and crossing the tee's".
It's called "inflammation therapy" and is the basis of Marshall Protocol, which is available worldwide.

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.