FEB 14, 2016 11:09 AM PST

Better to See You With - Bacteria are Tiny Eyes

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
Cyanobacteria have the unique ability to move towards light, a process called phototaxis.

According to microbiologists Ian Stewart and Ian R. Falconer, “cyanobacteria are arguably the most successful group of microorganisms on earth. They are the most genetically diverse; they occupy a broad range of habitats across all latitudes, widespread in freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems, and they are found in the most extreme niches such as hot springs, salt works, and hypersaline bays. Photoautotrophic, oxygen-producing cyanobacteria created the conditions in the planet's early atmosphere that directed the evolution of aerobic metabolism and eukaryotic photosynthesis. Cyanobacteria fulfill vital ecological functions in the world's oceans, being important contributors to global carbon and nitrogen budgets.”

Being photosynthetic, these bacteria need a way to sense and respond to light.  Researchers from the University of Freiburg found that cells of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, function like teeny, tiny eyeballs.  
 
Cyanobacteria act like tiny eyes.

According to University of Freiburg microbiologist Conrad Mullineaux, “the fact that bacteria respond to light is one of the oldest scientific observations of their behaviour … our observation that bacteria are optical objects is pretty obvious with hindsight, but we never thought of it until we saw it.  And no one else noticed it before either, despite the fact that scientists have been looking at bacteria under microscopes for the last 340 years.”

Mullineaux and colleagues discovered that each spherical bacterium functions like a lens.  When light hits one side of the cell, the light is refracted and focused to the opposite side of the cell.  Light receptors tell the cell to move away from the focused light, using their pili to move toward the light source.
 

Sources: eLIFE, Popular Science, Wikipedia
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
MAY 04, 2020
Microbiology
3D Print a Customizable Microscope for as Little as $18
MAY 04, 2020
3D Print a Customizable Microscope for as Little as $18
Researchers have developed an open-source and customizable microscope that can be 3D-printed for only $18.
MAY 18, 2020
Microbiology
An Antibody Against SARS May Neutralize SARS-CoV-2
MAY 18, 2020
An Antibody Against SARS May Neutralize SARS-CoV-2
SARS-CoV caused an outbreak of SARS in 2003. Samples collected from those patients back then may help us against SARS-Co ...
MAY 27, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Deeper Understanding of How Some Bacterial Toxins Interact With Cells
MAY 27, 2020
A Deeper Understanding of How Some Bacterial Toxins Interact With Cells
The surfaces of cells are decorated with receptors, and the interactions between receptors and their binding partners ar ...
JUN 30, 2020
Plants & Animals
Consequences of Sixth Mass Extinction Threaten Humanity
JUN 30, 2020
Consequences of Sixth Mass Extinction Threaten Humanity
Many scientists have taken note of the rapid decline many of the world species, and several have declared that Earth's s ...
JUL 12, 2020
Microbiology
Our Flu Response Is Influenced by Previous Exposures
JUL 12, 2020
Our Flu Response Is Influenced by Previous Exposures
The flu is caused by a respiratory virus, which evolves from year to year. Three kinds of influenza viruses infect human ...
JUL 20, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
A Tiny But Efficient Cas Protein is Discovered in a Bacteriophage
JUL 20, 2020
A Tiny But Efficient Cas Protein is Discovered in a Bacteriophage
The microbes of the world are locked in a struggle for survival and a battle for resources. They compete directly in dif ...
Loading Comments...