Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Jekyll and Hyde bacteria helps or kills, depending on chance

Date:
July 5, 2012
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
Living in the guts of worms are seemingly innocuous bacteria that contribute to their survival. With a flip of a switch, however, these same bacteria transform from harmless microbes into deadly insecticides. Scientists have revealed how a bacteria flips a DNA switch to go from an upstanding community member in the gut microbiome to deadly killer in insect blood.

Jekyll and Hyde bacteria live and thrive in the guts of worms.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Alex Martin.

Living in the guts of worms are seemingly innocuous bacteria that contribute to their survival. With a flip of a switch, however, these same bacteria transform from harmless microbes into deadly insecticides.

In the current issue of Science, Michigan State University researchers led a study that revealed how a bacteria flips a DNA switch to go from an upstanding community member in the gut microbiome to deadly killer in insect blood.

Todd Ciche, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, has seen variants like this emerge sometimes by chance resulting in drastically different properties, such as being lethal to the host or existing in a state of mutual harmony. Even though human guts are more complex and these interactions are harder to detect, the revelation certainly offers new insight that could lead to medical breakthroughs, he said.

"Animal guts are similar to ours, in that they are both teeming with microbes," said Ciche, who worked with researchers from Harvard Medical School. "These bacteria and other microorganisms are different inside their hosts than isolated in a lab, and we're only beginning to learn how these alliances with microbes are established, how they function and how they evolve."

The bacteria in question are bioluminescent insect pathogens. In their mutualistic state, they reside in the intestines of worms, growing slowly and performing other functions that aid nematode's survival, even contributing to reproduction.

As the nematodes grow, the bacteria reveal their dark side. They flip a DNA switch and arm themselves by growing rapidly and producing deadly toxins. When the worms begin infesting insects, they release their bacterial insecticide.

"It's like fleas teaming up with the plague," Ciche said.

The question remains: What causes this dramatic transformation?

"If we can figure out why the DNA turns on and off to cause the switch between Jekyll and Hyde, we can better understand how bacteria enter stages of dormancy and antibiotic tolerance -- processes critical to treating chronic infections," Ciche said.

Part of Ciche's research is funded by MSU AgBioResearch. Additional MSU researchers who contributed to this study include Rudolph Sloup, Alexander Martin, Anthony Heidt and Kwi-suk Kim. Scientists from the University of California-San Diego, Harvard Medical School and Yale University also contributed to this study.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Vishal S. Somvanshi, Rudolph E. Sloup, Jason M. Crawford, Alexander R. Martin, Anthony J. Heidt, Kwi-suk Kim, Jon Clardy, and Todd A. Ciche. A Single Promoter Inversion Switches Photorhabdus Between Pathogenic and Mutualistic States. Science, 6 July 2012: 88-93 DOI: 10.1126/science.1216641

Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Jekyll and Hyde bacteria helps or kills, depending on chance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120705194134.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2012, July 5). Jekyll and Hyde bacteria helps or kills, depending on chance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120705194134.htm
Michigan State University. "Jekyll and Hyde bacteria helps or kills, depending on chance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120705194134.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) 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