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Adapting to change? Remember the good, forget the bad!

Date:
March 31, 2010
Source:
Society for General Microbiology
Summary:
It's not easy being a bacterium and constantly having to adapt to whatever your environment throws at you. Bacteria rely on their "memories" to fine-tune their ability to sense food and danger.

It's not easy being a bacterium and constantly having to adapt to whatever your environment throws at you. Dr Robert Endres explains how bacteria rely on their 'memories' to fine-tune their ability to sense food and danger, in his talk at the Society for General Microbiology's spring meeting in Edinburgh.

Dr Endres and his team at Imperial College London developed a mathematical model to explain the dynamics of chemotaxis -- the mechanism bacteria use to detect and respond to changes in their environment. The group tagged the surface molecules of Escherichia coli that act as 'antennas' with fluorescent labels. Tracking these labels allowed them to detect the speed at which the bacteria respond and eventually adapt to change.

The researchers found that E. coli adapts to potentially toxic molecules much more quickly than to beneficial molecules such as nutrients. "This makes sense since, when bacteria find themselves in unfavourable conditions, cells 'tumble' and randomly find a new direction for swimming -- which is hopefully one that provides a quick escape!" said Dr Endres. "This kind of knowledge could potentially help us understand how pathogenic bacteria respond in the face of a host immune attack."

Bacteria such as E. coli are sensitive to even tiny changes in levels of chemicals around them. After altering their motility in response to these changes, cells must then return to their 'normal' swimming patterns. To adapt quickly, they must effectively 'forget' the initial stimulus soon after responding to it. Conversely, bacteria that 'remember' the stimulus continue to display altered behaviour patterns and are slower to adapt.


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


Cite This Page:

Society for General Microbiology. "Adapting to change? Remember the good, forget the bad!." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330210944.htm>.
Society for General Microbiology. (2010, March 31). Adapting to change? Remember the good, forget the bad!. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330210944.htm
Society for General Microbiology. "Adapting to change? Remember the good, forget the bad!." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330210944.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

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