Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Do bacteria age? Biologists discover the answer follows simple economics

Date:
October 28, 2011
Source:
University of California - San Diego
Summary:
When a bacterial cell divides into two daughter cells and those two cells divide into four more daughters, then 8, then 16 and so on, the result, biologists have long assumed, is an eternally youthful population of bacteria. Bacteria, in other words, don't age -- at least not in the same way all other organisms do. But a study questions that longstanding paradigm. Researchers conclude that not only do bacteria age, but that their ability to age allows bacteria to improve the evolutionary fitness of their population by diversifying their reproductive investment between older and more youthful daughters.

Colony of E. coli bacteria.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - San Diego

When a bacterial cell divides into two daughter cells and those two cells divide into four more daughters, then 8, then 16 and so on, the result, biologists have long assumed, is an eternally youthful population of bacteria. Bacteria, in other words, don't age -- at least not in the same way all other organisms do.

But a study conducted by evolutionary biologists at the University of California, San Diego questions that longstanding paradigm. In a paper published in the November 8 issue of the journal Current Biology, they conclude that not only do bacteria age, but that their ability to age allows bacteria to improve the evolutionary fitness of their population by diversifying their reproductive investment between older and more youthful daughters. An advance copy of the study appears this week in the journal's early online edition.

"Aging in organisms is often caused by the accumulation of non-genetic damage, such as proteins that become oxidized over time," said Lin Chao, a professor of biology at UC San Diego who headed the study. "So for a single celled organism that has acquired damage that cannot be repaired, which of the two alternatives is better -- to split the cellular damage in equal amounts between the two daughters or to give one daughter all of the damage and the other none?"

The UC San Diego biologists' answer -- that bacteria appear to give more of the cellular damage to one daughter, the one that has "aged," and less to the other, which the biologists term "rejuvenation" -- resulted from a computer analysis Chao and colleagues Camilla Rang and Annie Peng conducted on two experimental studies. Those studies, published in 2005 and 2010, attempted unsuccessfully to resolve the question of whether bacteria aged. While the 2005 study showed evidence of aging in bacteria, the 2010 study, which used a more sophisticated experimental apparatus and acquired more data than the previous one, suggested that they did not age.

"We analyzed the data from both papers with our computer models and discovered that they were really demonstrating the same thing," said Chao. "In a bacterial population, aging and rejuvenation goes on simultaneously, so depending on how you measure it, you can be misled to believe that there is no aging."

In a separate study, the UC San Diego biologists filmed populations of E. coli bacteria dividing over hundreds of generations and confirmed that the sausage-shaped bacteria divided each time into daughter cells that grew elongated at different rates -- suggesting that one daughter cell was getting all or most of the cellular damage from its mother while the other was getting little or none. Click this link to watch the time-lapse film of one bacterium dividing over 10 generations into 1,000 bacteria in a period of five hours and see if you can see any differences.

"We ran computer models and found that giving one daughter more the damage and the other less always wins from an evolutionary perspective," said Chao. "It's analogous to diversifying your portfolio. If you could invest $1 million at 8 percent, would that provide you with more money than splitting the money and investing $500,000 at 6 percent and $500,000 at 10 percent?"

"After one year it makes no difference," he added. "But after two years, splitting the money into the two accounts earns you more and more money because of the compounding effect of the 10 percent. It turns out that bacteria do the same thing. They give one daughter a fresh start, which is the higher interest-bearing account and the other daughter gets more of the damage."

Although E. coli bacteria appear to divide precisely down the middle into two daughter cells, the discovery that the two daughters eventually grow to different lengths suggests that bacteria do not divide as symmetrically as most biologists have come to believe, but that their division is really "asymmetrical" within the cell.

"There must be an active transport system within the bacterial cell that puts the non-genetic damage into one of the daughter cells," said Chao. "We think evolution drove this asymmetry. If bacteria were symmetrical, there would be no aging. But because you have this asymmetry, one daughter by having more damage has aged, while the other daughter gets a rejuvenated start with less damage."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - San Diego. The original article was written by Kim McDonald. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Camilla U. Rang, Annie Y. Peng, Lin Chao. Temporal Dynamics of Bacterial Aging and Rejuvenation. Current Biology, 27 October 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.09.018

Cite This Page:

University of California - San Diego. "Do bacteria age? Biologists discover the answer follows simple economics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111027150207.htm>.
University of California - San Diego. (2011, October 28). Do bacteria age? Biologists discover the answer follows simple economics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111027150207.htm
University of California - San Diego. "Do bacteria age? Biologists discover the answer follows simple economics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111027150207.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
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:
from the past week

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