A search goes faster with a tool to separate the wheat from the chaff. A pan can help you find gold flakes, and a metal detector can help you find a coin at the beach, but what tools can you use when you’re searching for a bacterium that can manufacture biofuels? In a study in mBio this week, researchers applied an old familiar microscopy tool in a new high-throughput method to help identify new strains of hydrocarbon-making microbes.
In the hunt for new organisms, sometimes you just get lucky. The authors of a paper in mBio this week found a virus that offered two discoveries for the price of one: it’s a novel organism that also reveals lessons in evolutionary ecology.
To get around host defenses, Salmonella enterica serovars that specialize in a single type of host are known to shuffle their genomic decks by recombining their chromosomes, rearrangements that result in inversions, translocations, duplications, or deletions of various sizes.
When a successful bacterium begins to outgrow its physical niche, things can get ugly. Colonies Paenibacillus dendritiformis, for instance, turns on its brothers and produces a toxic protein called Slf, which kills cells of encroaching sibling colonies. The bacterium senses when space gets tight, then deploys its toxic protein on nearby colonies so it won’t lose out in the struggle for space and nutrients.
I attended the ASM General Meeting in New Orleans this week and soaked up some science and some amazing New Orleans cuisine. I also loaded up on vendor tchotchkes. While browsing around the vendor booths I managed to acquire no fewer than FOUR bottles of hand sanitizer. After reading the latest in mBio, I'm glad I did.
Could a new test for prions put you back in the blood donors’ chair?
In mBio this week: a novel, hypervirulent strain of Chlamydia trachomatis is actually a combination of two well-known strains – one of them a harmless symbiont.
If you work in microbiology, you know the statistics: as many as 99% of bacterial species have yet to succumb to science’s best efforts to cultivate them. Even many of the bacteria we harbor within our bodies resist growing in culture, and if they can’t be grown in the laboratory we have limited opportunities to figure out what they do for us (or what they do to us). In mBio this week, a new approach to cultivating these reluctant microbes reads the metatranscriptome – the RNA a community of bacteria makes as a blueprint for making their proteins – for…
Without the benefit of sex to help them ensure their genetic legacy, bacteria employ horizontal Untitled-3 gene transfer to move genes from one cell to another. One way to get this done between cells in contact with one another is using integrative and conjugative elements (ICEs), DNA segments that normally reside within the host genome but are excised and form a circle before moving on to a recipient cell. Because they can move genes quickly within a community, ICEs contribute to the spread of genes involved in pathogenesis, symbiosis, metabolism, and antibiotic resistance.
Of the many things that have been said about gonorrhea, here’s one thing no one ever guessed: gonorrhea is a little bit human. A study published in mBio today reveals that the genomes of some strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae carry a piece of the human long interspersed nuclear element (LINE) L1.
Wednesday, 02 February 2011 15:18

Metabolite bait-and-switch to fight tuberculosis

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There is a public health crisis brewing in medicine: in short, there are too many bad bugs and not Schematic enough drugs. Many pathogens have evolved resistance to our most potent antibiotics, and as of 2009, only fifteen antibacterial agents were under development, most of which are only in the early stages of the process. Think about that: of all the bacterial and fungal diseases out there, some of which have evolved resistance to even our second-line drugs, there are only 15 new drugs in the pipeline to treat them. Tuberculosis is particularly alarming when it comes to antibiotic resistance,…
Can you create an extremophile? The microbes living and thriving at the fringes of the biosphere manage to get by in spite of extreme temperatures, radiation levels, and pressures (did I miss any?) that most other life forms would choke on. But how easy would it be for an organism that prospers in the warm embrace of our digestive tract to make a change in lifestyle and become an extremophile? Pretty easy, as it turns out.
Reduce, reuse, recycle? Candida albicans is a reuser. No, it doesn’t use its old grocery bags over and over – it puts one set of proteins to work in two different jobs.
Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium is one of the major pathogens responsible for food poisoning in this country, and it has a thing for hydrogen gas. In mice, when you take away the proteins that allow S. Typhimurium to respire H2, the bacterium loses all virulence and no longer causes the gastrointestinal problems it is so well known for. But why is hydrogen so important?
A study published in mBio this week reveals a novel system for turning plant materials into biofuels using a designer cellulosome, an enzyme complex that is like the fantasy football team of biological processes.
Many urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be cleared up with a big bottle of cranberry juice, but when these infections go bad, they can be really, really bad. Uropathogenic E. coli is the leading cause of uncomplicated UTIs, and if left untreated it can proceed right up the urinary tract to the kidneys and sometimes even into the bloodstream. Although the results are usually devastating for patients, the specifics of what E. coli does once it reaches the bloodstream are mostly unknown.
Humans have been getting microbes to do our bidding for millennia by taking their inherent processes (or engineered new processes) and applying them to making foods, drinks, drugs, biofuels, and other products. In most approaches, we feed them the right ingredients and wait for the good stuff to come out the other side. A study appearing in the latest issue of mBio reveals an electrifying new way to get what we want from bacteria: researchers manipulated bacterial metabolism by pulling excess electrons out of the mix and into an electrode.
Mutually-beneficial cooperation is a high ideal, but for bacteria and archaea, working together isn’t always a good solution. Now a team at Pennsylvania State University has worked out a system that could work better than inter-domain cooperation: by putting genes from a bacterium into an archaeon, they got the archaeon to do all the work on its own. The study appears in the latest issue of mBio. Mutually-beneficial cooperation is a high ideal, but for bacteria and archaea, working together isn’t always a good solution. Now a team at Pennsylvania State University has worked out a system that could work…
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is one tough nut to crack, but a new paper coming out in mBio sheds some light on how that cracking might be done, and adds to our knowledge of an opportunistic pathogen that strikes in homes and hospital wards every day.
Wednesday, 13 October 2010 13:37

The Catch of the Day: Bacterial Lobster Traps

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It’s the kind of microbiology that would make Steve Irwin proud: tracking and trapping the wild Pseudomonas aeruginosa to study its habits. In mBio’s latest paper, the authors describe using “bacterial lobster traps”, picoliter-scale, permeable protein cages, to study quorum-sensing among small groups of cells.