Time-lapse microscopy helps reveal brake mechanism in Streptomyces lifecycle

February 5, 2019, John Innes Centre

Brake mechanism revealed in Streptomyces venezuelae. Credit: Dr. Matt Bush
Streptomyces are soil-dwelling bacteria that produce approximately two-thirds of the antibiotics in current clinical use.

The production of these antibiotics—used by the bacteria to fend off rivals—is coordinated as part of a complex life-cycle that ends in the formation of spores.

In the reproductive process of sporulation, bacteria enter a state of dormancy enhancing their survival in adverse conditions.

If researchers can understand how such a reproductive life-cycle is controlled, they may be able to exploit the production of clinically-useful antibiotics.

In a study published today in the American Society for Microbiology journal, mBio, researchers from the John Innes Centre reveal that a acts as a "brake" to ensure the correct timing of sporulation in Streptomyces. This is a DNA-binding protein called BldC.

The team showed that when they removed the brake by removing the gene that encodes for the protein, sporulation occurs too early.

To understand how this BldC brake works, the team used a method called Chromatin-Immunoprecipitation-sequencing (ChIP-seq).

This technique allows researchers to use a specific antibody to identify where the BldC protein binds on the chromosome of Streptomyces. Another technique, called RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) enabled them to see which genes are switched on or off by the BldC protein.

Time-lapse microscopy helps reveal brake mechanism in bacterial lifecycle. Credit: Ruby O'Grady
"This approach showed that the BldC brake works by keeping important genes required for sporulation switched off at a time when Streptomyces wants to grow non-reproductively," explains first author Dr. Matt Bush.

"To our surprise, these studies showed that as well as switching some genes off, BldC -can also switch other on. Because BldC binds at many positions on the chromosome, one possibility is that it also serves to organise the chromosome's structure—it's a nucleoid-associated protein)."

One question that remains to be answered in future studies is: how is the BldC-"brake" removed?

The study used the , Streptomyces venezuelae ("Sven"). The main advantage of S. venezuelae is that unlike other model species, it sporulates in liquid as well as on solid agar-plates.

"This means we can use time-lapse fluorescence microscopy to make movies of Streptomyces undergoing the entire spore-to-spore life-cycle in real-time. We can put a fluorescent "tag" on a protein in the cell to see where it goes and when. Here we put a tag on the "FtsZ" protein that is required for the cell division event that produces spores." says Dr. Bush.

Explore further: Small molecule acts as on-off switch for nature's antibiotic factory

More information: Matthew J. Bush et al. BldC Delays Entry into Development To Produce a Sustained Period of Vegetative Growth in Streptomyces venezuelae, mBio (2019). DOI: 10.1128/mBio.02812-18

Related Stories

Research finds novel method for increasing antibiotic yields

September 5, 2011

A novel way of increasing the amounts of antibiotics produced by bacteria has been discovered that could markedly improve the yields of these important compounds in commercial production. It could also be valuable in helping ...

Recommended for you

The powerful meteor that no one saw (except satellites)

March 19, 2019

At precisely 11:48 am on December 18, 2018, a large space rock heading straight for Earth at a speed of 19 miles per second exploded into a vast ball of fire as it entered the atmosphere, 15.9 miles above the Bering Sea.

Revealing the rules behind virus scaffold construction

March 19, 2019

A team of researchers including Northwestern Engineering faculty has expanded the understanding of how virus shells self-assemble, an important step toward developing techniques that use viruses as vehicles to deliver targeted ...

OSIRIS-REx reveals asteroid Bennu has big surprises

March 19, 2019

A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid's surface. Bennu also revealed itself ...

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...

0 comments

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.