AUG 02, 2020 4:41 AM PDT

Examining the Existence of Organelles in Bacteria

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Cells can be grouped into two general categories: prokaryotic cells, which include microbes like bacteria and archaea, or eukaryotic cells, which include plants and animals. A major difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells is membrane-bound structures called organelles, including a nucleus, which encloses a eukaryote's genome. In prokaryotes, the genetic material can be found free-floating in the cell. Recent research has shown, however, that some types of organelles can also be found in bacteria.

A TEM image depicting Elizabethkingia anophelis bacteria / Credit: CDC/ Cynthia Goldsmith and Melissa Bell

In Nature Reviews Microbiology, scientists from Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) have outlines organelles in bacteria.

"There was an age-old truism until recently that bacteria were simply a bag of enzymes, the simplest type of cells," said Professor Trevor Lithgow of BDI. "New developments in nanoscale imaging have shown that internal compartments - organelles - make them very complex."

Powerful microscopy tools have revealed the presence of organelles in bacteria, which are about 10,000 times smaller than the head of a pin. Some of them are created out of a kind of phase separation while others are surrounded by physical boundaries made from fatty mono- or bilayers or proteins.

Organelles help bacteria carry out various biochemical processes like photosynthesis, or the breakdown of toxins like fuel. They can also help orient bacteria; some bacterial organelles collect magnetic iron particles to align with the planet's magnetic field, while other bacterial organelles can collect gas and move through an aquatic environment in specific directions in order to find nutrients or light. The review authors noted that while these organelles exhibit a high level of diversity, there are some unifying characteristics, such as the mechanisms underlying their formation.

"Organelles enable many bacteria to perform functions useful for us, from supporting basic ecosystem function to enabling all sorts of biotechnological advances. But a few pathogens use organelles to cause disease," said Associate Professor Chris Greening of BDI. "The deadly pathogen that causes tuberculosis, for example, scavenges fatty molecules from our own bodies and stores them as energy reserves in organelles, helping the pathogen to persist for years in our lungs, compromising treatment and making the emergence of drug resistance likely."

A deep understanding of how bacteria function can benefit humans in many ways, including through advancing biotechnology and improving human health.

"In these times of COVID-19 the death tolls we're seeing for viral infections are terrible, but the projection is that by 2050 at least 22,000 Australians and ten million people worldwide will die every year due to infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria," Lithgow said.

In the video above, Lithgow discusses bacterial cells.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Monash University, Nature Reviews Microbiology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 10, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
New Artificial Cells Can Ingest, Process & Expel Material
SEP 10, 2021
New Artificial Cells Can Ingest, Process & Expel Material
Better research models can help us solve some biological mysteries. In recent years, scientists have developed a variety ...
OCT 13, 2021
Microbiology
How Bacteria Can Work as a Kind of Antibiotic Therapy
OCT 13, 2021
How Bacteria Can Work as a Kind of Antibiotic Therapy
When we get an infection, we can take antibiotics to get rid of it. But sometimes the situation becomes more complicated ...
OCT 15, 2021
Health & Medicine
Over Half of Patients Infected in the Pandemic Experience 'Long COVID'
OCT 15, 2021
Over Half of Patients Infected in the Pandemic Experience 'Long COVID'
About 236 million people are known to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVD-19. Researchers hav ...
OCT 26, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Glomalin, The Protein that Can Heal the Earth
OCT 26, 2021
Glomalin, The Protein that Can Heal the Earth
Soil quality is growing ever more important as we attempt to feed the growing world population. Our soils are being degr ...
NOV 02, 2021
Microbiology
Syphilis is on the Rise, and Infants are Paying a High Price
NOV 02, 2021
Syphilis is on the Rise, and Infants are Paying a High Price
Syphilis is on the rise worldwide, and it's killing infants. The disease is a leading cause of stillbirth worldwide, acc ...
NOV 28, 2021
Microbiology
A Gut Microbe That Improves Bees' Memory
NOV 28, 2021
A Gut Microbe That Improves Bees' Memory
Accumulating evidence has suggested that the community of microbes in the gastrointestinal tracts of most organisms have ...
Loading Comments...