Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bacteria communicate by touch, new research suggests

Date:
March 1, 2012
Source:
University of California - Santa Barbara
Summary:
What if bacteria could talk to each other? What if they had a sense of touch? A new study suggests both, and theorizes that such cells may, in fact, need to communicate in order to perform certain functions.

Associate professor Christopher Hayes and graduate student Christina Beck
Credit: Rod Rolle

What if bacteria could talk to each other? What if they had a sense of touch? A new study by researchers at UC Santa Barbara suggests both, and theorizes that such cells may, in fact, need to communicate in order to perform certain functions.

The findings appeared recently in the journal Genes & Development.

Christopher Hayes, UCSB associate professor of molecular, cellular, and development biology, teamed with graduate students Elie Diner, Christina Beck, and Julia Webb to study uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC), which causes urinary tract infections in humans. They discovered a sibling-like link between cell systems that have largely been thought of as rivals.

The paper shows that bacteria expressing a contact--dependent growth inhibition system (CDI) can inhibit bacteria without such a system only if the target bacteria have CysK, a metabolic enzyme required for synthesis of the amino acid cysteine. CysK is shown to bind to the CDI toxin -- an enzyme that breaks RNA and activate it.

For a cell system typically thought of as existing only to kill other bacteria -- as CDIs have largely been -- the results are surprising, said Hayes, because they suggest that a CDI+ inhibitor cell has to get permission from its target in order to do the job.

"This is basically the inhibitor cell asking the target cell, 'Can I please inhibit you?'" he explained. "It makes no sense. Why add an extra layer of complexity? Why add a permissive factor? That's an unusual finding.

"We think now that the [CDI] system is not made solely because these cells want to go out and kill other cells," Hayes continued. "Our results suggest the possibility that these cells may use CDI to communicate as siblings and team up to work together; for example, in formation of a biofilm, which lends bacteria greater strength and better odds of survival."

The study points to the enzyme CysK as the potential catalyst to such bacterial communication -- like a secret handshake, or a password. In simpler terms, said Hayes, "If you have the right credentials, you're allowed into the club; otherwise you're turned away. There's a velvet rope, if you will, and if you're not one of the cool kids, you can't get in."

Although only UPEC was studied for this paper, Hayes said that the findings hold potential implications for pathogens from bacterial meningitis to the plague, as well as for plant-based bacteria that can devastate vegetation.

David Low, a UCSB professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and secondary author on the paper, described the work by Hayes's laboratory as potentially groundbreaking for its insights into how bacteria communicate -- and the practical applications that could someday result.

"We are just starting to get some clues that bacteria may be talking to each other with a contact-dependent language," said Low. "They touch and respond to one another in different ways depending on the CDI systems and other genotypic factors. Our hope is that ultimately this work may aid the development of drugs that block or enhance touch-dependent communication, whether the bacteria is harmful or helpful."

The work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Santa Barbara. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. E. J. Diner, C. M. Beck, J. S. Webb, D. A. Low, C. S. Hayes. Identification of a target cell permissive factor required for contact-dependent growth inhibition (CDI). Genes & Development, 2012; DOI: 10.1101/gad.182345.111

Cite This Page:

University of California - Santa Barbara. "Bacteria communicate by touch, new research suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301143741.htm>.
University of California - Santa Barbara. (2012, March 1). Bacteria communicate by touch, new research suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301143741.htm
University of California - Santa Barbara. "Bacteria communicate by touch, new research suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301143741.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
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