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 September 16, 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 September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lion Cubs the Pride of San Diego Zoo

Lion Cubs the Pride of San Diego Zoo

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 13, 2014) Roars of excitement as a proud lioness shows off her four cubs at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
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