Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Novel Living System Recreates Predator-prey Interaction

Date:
April 14, 2008
Source:
Duke University
Summary:
The hunter-versus-hunted phenomenon exemplified by a pack of lionesses chasing down a lonely gazelle has been recreated in a Petri dish with lowly bacteria. Researchers have developed a living system using genetically altered bacteria that he believes can provide new insights into how the population levels of prey influence the levels of predators, and vice-versa.

Using fluorescent microscopy, researchers document the predator-prey interaction. The predator cells, shown in green, have caused a prey cell, shown in red, to commit suicide. The elongation and separation of the prey cell is proof of its demise.
Credit: Hao Song, Duke

The hunter-versus-hunted phenomenon exemplified by a pack of lionesses chasing down a lonely gazelle has been recreated in a Petri dish with lowly bacteria.

Working with colleagues at Caltech, Stanford and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a Duke University bioengineer has developed a living system using genetically altered bacteria that he believes can provide new insights into how the population levels of prey influence the levels of predators, and vice-versa.

The Duke experiment is an example of a synthetic gene circuit, where researchers load new "programming" into bacteria to make them perform new functions. Such re-programmed bacteria could see a wide variety of applications in medicine, environmental cleanup and biocomputing. In this particular Duke study, researchers rewrote the software of the common bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli.) to form a mutually dependent living circuit of predator and prey.

The bacterial predators don't actually eat the prey, however. The two populations control each others' suicide rates.

"We created a synthetic ecosystem made up of two distinct populations of E. coli, each with its own specific set of programming and each with the ability to affect the existence of the other," said Lingchong You, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering and member of Duke's Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy. "This ecosystem is quite similar to the traditional predator-prey relationship seen in nature and may allow us to explore the dynamics of interacting populations in a predictable manner."

The results of You's study appear April 15 in the journal Molecular Systems Biology. The research was supported by National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

This field of study, known as synthetic biology, emerged on the scientific scene around 2000, and many of the systems created since have involved the reprogramming of single bacteria. The current circuit is unique in that two different populations of reprogrammed bacteria live in the same ecosystem and are dependent on each other for survival.

"The key to the success of this kind of circuit is the ability of the two populations to communicate with each other," You said. "We created bacteria representing the predators and the prey, with each having the ability to secrete chemicals into their shared ecosystem that can protect or kill."

Central to the operation of this circuit are the numbers of predator and prey cells relative to each other in their controlled environment. Variations in the number of cells of each type trigger the activation of the reprogrammed genes, stimulating the creation of different chemicals.

In this system, low levels of prey in the environment cause the activation of a "suicide" gene in the predator, causing them to die. However, as the population of prey increases, it secretes into the environment a chemical that, when it achieves a high enough concentration, stimulates a gene in the predator to produce an "antidote" to the suicide gene. This leads to an increase in predators, which in turn causes the predator to produce another chemical which enters the prey cell and activates a "killer" gene, causing the prey to die.

"This system is much like the natural world, where one species -- the prey -- suffers from growth of another species -- the predator," You said. "Likewise, the predator benefits from the growth of the prey."

This circuit is not an exact representation of the predator-prey relationship in nature because the prey stops the programmed suicide of predator instead of becoming food, and both populations compete for the same "food" in their world. Nevertheless, You believes that the circuit will become a useful tool for biologic researchers.

"This system provides clear mapping between genetics and the dynamics of population change, which will help in future studies of how molecular interactions can influence population changes, a central theme of ecology," You said. "There are literally unlimited ways to change variables in this system to examine in detail the interplay between environment, gene regulation and population dynamics.

"With additional control over the mixing or segregating of different populations, we should be able to program bacteria to mimic the development and differentiation of more complex organisms," he said.

The research is a collaboration between the You lab and the laboratories of Frances Arnold at Caltech and Stephen Quake at Stanford and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The first author of the study, Frederick Balagadde, is currently establishing a research program at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab. While working in the Quake lab, he developed the technology to enable high-resolution measurements of the circuit dynamics. Other study authors include Duke's Hao Song and Jun Ozaki, as well as Cynthia Collins, Rensselear Polytechnic Institute and Mat Barnet, Caltech.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Duke University. "Novel Living System Recreates Predator-prey Interaction." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080414082525.htm>.
Duke University. (2008, April 14). Novel Living System Recreates Predator-prey Interaction. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080414082525.htm
Duke University. "Novel Living System Recreates Predator-prey Interaction." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080414082525.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins