SEP 10, 2016 02:46 PM PDT

Bacteria can Share & Recycle Ammunition in Battle

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch
A classic defense mechanism of bacteria is the type 6 secretion system, T6SS, is a sort of molecular spear gun. Researchers have now learned more about how it works in tight groups of related bacteria and have published their work in the latest edition of Cell. It appears that bacteria of a related strain can reuse the ammunition after it’s been fired, both conferring the defense on bacteria that lack it as well as adding to the existing aresenals. If you’d like to get more details about the T6SS, watch the video below.
 

 
The system has been studied extensively and is a well described structure, resembling an inverted phage. It has a sort of pointy spear, surrounded by a flexible sheath that is firmly anchored to the cell.  "When bacteria fire their spear guns, the sheath rapidly contracts in just a few milliseconds and ejects the spear out of the cell into by-standing bacteria. The attackers then recycle the harpoon proteins remaining in the cell," explained one author of the work, Professor Marek Basler, an infection biologist at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel.
 
The investigators performed their research on the cholera pathogen, Vibrio cholerae, showing for the first time that these bacteria use a form of recycling, and sharing resources with related bacteria in need. By mixing bacteria deficient in the protein components of T6SS with normal bacteria, they demonstrated that the T6SS functions are provided to the deficient bacteria. You can see a video of their work below.
 

 
"The special thing about Vibrio cholerae is that it assembles spear guns all the time and fires them aimlessly," said Andrea Vettiger, the other author of the study. "If one of T6SS-defecient bacteria is randomly hit, it disassembles the spear gun to its individual components, the shaft and tip proteins, and reassembles its own functional harpoon; also the translocated tip-linked toxins can be recycled by the attacked cell. And even bacteria that no longer produce any proteins can assemble a T6SS by reusing the harpooned proteins provided by their neighboring sister cells."
 
The researchers also learned that related strains of bacteria are able to unite and form a defense against microbial foes. For example, two strains of Vibrio can team up to kill a competitor. Additionally, they can do that even if one strain in the team lacks the T6SS capabilities, through the demonstrated use of shared resources.
 
Vibrio cholerae bacteria (green) recycle T6SS proteins of the attacking sister cells (red) to build their own spear gun (light green intracellular structure). / Credit University of Basel
 
The scientists believe their discovery could be a very important phenomenon. "Although we have only observed this interbacterial complementation under laboratory conditions, we are convinced that this form of cooperation plays an important role in nature and provides some bacterial communities with a survival advantage," concluded Basler.
 
Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via University of Basel, Cell
 
About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
OCT 20, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 20, 2019
Fibromyalgia Linked to Gut Microbes
Using clinical samples, scientists identified differences in the microbial population in the guts of people with fibromyalgia....
OCT 20, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 20, 2019
Cigarette Smoke can Increase the Pathogenicity of Microbes
Strains of MRSA can become more resistant to antibiotics when exposed to cigarette smoke....
OCT 20, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 20, 2019
Why TB and HIV Occur Together So Often
Tuberculosis (TB) is among the world’s leading causes of death, and is the primary cause of death in people who are HIV-positive....
OCT 20, 2019
Immunology
OCT 20, 2019
Flu Shot Less Effective Due to Overuse of Antibioitics
New research out of the Stanford University School of Medicine shows that the consequence of overuse of antibiotics lowers the effectiveness of the seasona...
OCT 20, 2019
Health & Medicine
OCT 20, 2019
Effectiveness of Different Hand-Drying Methods on Reducing Bacteria on Washed Hands
Hand hygiene is vital to prevent the spread of infectious organisms, especially in healthcare settings. It is well-documented in the literature about the i...
OCT 20, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 20, 2019
Learning More About Toxoplasmosis
Around a third of the global population, including 40 million Americans are thought to be infected with a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii...
Loading Comments...