Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Living power cables discovered: Multicellular bacteria transmit electrons across relatively great distances

Date:
October 24, 2012
Source:
University of Southern California
Summary:
Scientists have discovered filamentous bacteria that function as living power cables in order to transmit electrons thousands of cell lengths away.

A small cavity in the seabed reveals a number of cable bacteria that conducts electric currents between the red surface and the deep, black, anaerobic sediment layers of the seabed.
Credit: Nils Risgaard-Petersen

A multinational research team has discovered filamentous bacteria that function as living power cables in order to transmit electrons thousands of cell lengths away.

The Desulfobulbus bacterial cells, which are only a few thousandths of a millimeter long each, are so tiny that they are invisible to the naked eye. And yet, under the right circumstances, they form a multicellular filament that can transmit electrons across a distance as large as 1 centimeter as part of the filament's respiration and ingestion processes.

The discovery by scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark and USC will be published in Nature on October 24.

"To move electrons over these enormous distances in an entirely biological system would have been thought impossible," said Moh El-Naggar, assistant professor of physics at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and co-author of the Nature paper.

Aarhus scientists had discovered a seemingly inexplicable electric current on the sea floor years ago. The new experiments revealed that these currents are mediated by a hitherto unknown type of long, multicellular bacteria that act as living power cables

"Until we found the cables we imagined something cooperative where electrons were transported through external networks between different bacteria. It was indeed a surprise to realize, that it was all going on inside a single organism," said Lars Peter Nielsen of the Aarhus Department of Bioscience, and a corresponding author of the Nature paper.

The team studied bacteria living in marine sediments that power themselves by oxidizing hydrogen sulfide. Cells at the bottom live in a zone that is poor in oxygen but rich in hydrogen sulfide, and those at the top live in an area rich in oxygen but poor in hydrogen sulfide.

The solution? They form long chains that transport individual electrons from the bottom to the top, completing the chemical reaction and generating life-sustaining energy.

"You have feeder cells on one end and breather cells on the other, allowing the whole living cable to survive," El-Naggar said.

Aarhus and USC researchers collaborated to use physical techniques to evaluate the long-distance electron transfer in the filamentous bacteria. El-Naggar and his colleagues had previously used scanning-probe microscopy and nanofabrication methods to describe how bacteria use nanoscale structures called "bacterial nanowires" to transmit electrons many body lengths away from cells.

"I'm a physicist, so when I look at remarkable phenomena like this, I like to put it into a quantifiable process," El-Naggar said.

El-Naggar, who was just chosen as one of the Popular Science Brilliant 10 young scientists for his work in biological physics, said physicists are increasingly being tapped to tackle tough biological questions.

"This world is so fertile right now," he said. "It's just exploding."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southern California. The original article was written by Robert Perkins. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Christian Pfeffer, Steffen Larsen, Jie Song, Mingdong Dong, Flemming Besenbacher, Rikke Louise Meyer, Kasper Urup Kjeldsen, Lars Schreiber, Yuri A. Gorby, Mohamed Y. El-Naggar, Kar Man Leung, Andreas Schramm, Nils Risgaard-Petersen, Lars Peter Nielsen. Filamentous bacteria transport electrons over centimetre distances. Nature, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nature11586

Cite This Page:

University of Southern California. "Living power cables discovered: Multicellular bacteria transmit electrons across relatively great distances." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121024150803.htm>.
University of Southern California. (2012, October 24). Living power cables discovered: Multicellular bacteria transmit electrons across relatively great distances. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121024150803.htm
University of Southern California. "Living power cables discovered: Multicellular bacteria transmit electrons across relatively great distances." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121024150803.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) 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:

More Coverage


Bacterial Wires Explain Enigmatic Electric Currents in the Seabed

Oct. 24, 2012 The enigma of electric currents in the seabed is solved. Scientists have discovered bacteria that function as living electrical cables. Each of the centimeter-long 'cable bacteria' contains ... read more
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