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Colonies of bacteria fight for resources with lethal protein
Date:3/24/2010

b and his colleagues created a model to guide their thinking.

"In physics, we use models to make predictions," Ben-Jacob said, noting that biological models often present what is already understood. The model told them that they should be looking for something that would prune the full-size factor to its smaller lethal form as the colonies began to compete, a factor that might be harmless or even helpful until it reached a certain threshold.

P. dendritiformis also secretes a protein called subtilisin, which promotes growth, except in high concentrations. Subtilisin, which was already known and is available commercially, clipped the full-sized protein to the size of that found between competing colonies. This smaller piece slices the bacteria cells open and spills their contents into the medium, they found.

"Very often, you discover that in order to explain what's going on, you need to imagine mechanisms that are beyond what the biologists have specifically discovered about the system," said Herbert Levine, a physics professor at UC San Diego who co-directs the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics, but was not involved in this study. "In this work, they've succeeded in taking the next step," he said. "They were able find the chemical messenger that is actually playing the role they hypothesized."


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Contact: Eshel Ben-Jacob
scinews@ucsd.edu
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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