NOV 13, 2017 11:35 AM PST

Super Glue-Like Bacteria

WRITTEN BY: Sarah Hertrich

Caulobacter crescentus is an interesting type of aquatic bacteria that can survive in harsh environments such as fresh water, salt water, and soil. Nutrients in these types of environments are often limited. The bacteria was featured this week on the American Society for Microbiology’s Small Things Considered blog for its unique cell morphologies, strong adhesive abilities, and role as a model for ageing studies.

Caulobacters are able to strongly adhere themselves to surfaces in challenging environments such as small creeks where there is running water or small waves. The “super glue” that allows for this attachment is a tiny blob of polysaccharide. Credit: BioTechniques

In the beginning stages of Caulobacter cell differentiation, the mother cell will produce a stalk which helps it attach to a surface. Once attached, the mother cell will begin to replicate its chromosome and release a ‘swarmer’ daughter cell. Daughter cells are flagellated, meaning they contain a tail that allows them to swim. This tail allows the daughter cell to swim to a place which it can attach and replicate once again.

The stalk of the mother cell is made of a polysaccharide that allows for a holdfast grip in harsh environments. Researchers discovered that stalked Caulobacter cells were not easily removed from surfaces in the laboratory. Previous research has shown that when Caulobacter cells are in the stalked stage while attached to glass microscope slides, cells were unable to be removed with water. Scientists found that even strong jets of water could not detach the bacteria from the glass. This property allows the bacteria to adhere to surfaces in creeks and rivers where there is flowing water or small waves. 

This polysaccharide is a crosslinked beta-1,4 N-acetyl glucosamine which is a similar substance that holds bacterial cells together in a biofilm. While the biofilm extrapolysaccharide is described as more of a “slime” the stalk polysaccharide is more of a “glue”. Secretion of the stalk polysaccharide is triggered when the swarming daughter cell detects a surface.

Using Atomic Force Microscopy, scientists found the adhesion strength and holdfast of the Caulobacter stalk to be stronger than the adhesive hairs on the surface of geckos’ toes, known as setae. The polysaccharide that composes the stalk may be an excellent candidate for a biodegradable surgical adhesive. For example, the adhesive strength of this polysaccharide is stronger than the current dentin and enamel adhesives on the market.

Sources: Small Things Considered, MicrobeWiki, BioTechniques

About the Author
  • I am a postdoctoral researcher with interests in pre-harvest microbial food safety, nonthermal food processing technologies, zoonotic pathogens, and plant-microbe interactions. My current research projects involve the optimization of novel food processing technologies to reduce the number of foodborne pathogens on fresh produce. I am a food geek!
You May Also Like
NOV 27, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 27, 2019
Humans Are Continuing to Evolve, Along With Immune-Related Diseases
Humans have evolved in some ways to be less susceptible to pathogens, but those benefits can also carry risks of other diseases....
DEC 01, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 01, 2019
Engineering a Better Viral Delivery System for Gene Therapy
To send gene therapy to diseased cells, scientists have turned to adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) to act as a delivery system....
DEC 20, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 20, 2019
Outbreak of Drug-Resistant Infections Linked to Pet Store Puppies
The CDC is warning people about an outbreak of drug-resistant bacteria that's been linked to store-bought puppies....
JAN 13, 2020
Microbiology
JAN 13, 2020
Using Food to 'Sculpt' the Gut Microbiome
Scientists are learning more about how the antimicrobial effect of some foods and how it alters the microbial community in the gut....
FEB 03, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 03, 2020
The Switch Controlling the Stage of a Common Parasite
The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is thought to infect from one-quarter to one-third of the global population....
FEB 13, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
FEB 13, 2020
A Very Unusual Virus is Discovered in Brazil
Researchers in Brazil have discovered a very unusual virus infecting amoeba in an artificial lake called Lake Pampulha in the city of Belo Horizonte....
Loading Comments...