A common soil dwelling bacterium appears to possess a sense of touch, researchers have shown.
A study, by Dr James Stratford at The University of Nottingham and Dr Simon Park at the University of Surrey, has found that Bacillus mycoides, which has been known to science since 1842, responds to forces and curvature in the medium on which it's growing.
The microbe's ability to respond to subtle changes in its environment, as revealed in the journal PLOS ONE, could signal potential useful scientific, engineering and medical applications for B. mycoides.
Dr Stratford, a research fellow at Nottingham's School of Life Sciences, said: "We happened to notice the way the growing bacteria interacted with small defects in our solid culture media and thought what if that's more than just random variation?"
Like living spiral art, the organism produces a spreading colony made up of repeatedly curving filaments. While its response to changes occurs in individual bacterial filaments on a microscopic level, the resulting pattern is easily visible to the naked eye on culture plates.
Whirlpool shaped structures the size of a human hand are produced in response to growth on curved surfaces and the organism can even respond to damage holes cut in the gel on which it is growing lead to changes in the direction of nearby filaments.
The ability to respond to force allows filaments of B. mycoides to orient themselves towards objects which are causing even the tiniest disruptions to the surface nearby. B. mycoides was even able to 'find' small glass beads placed in the vicinity of the bacterial colony.
The study used high magnification time lapse to capture B. mycoides responding to a compression force in the agar gel being used as a growth medium. Images were taken at 20 minute intervals after force was applied.
Using this method it was possible to steer bacterial cells
|Contact: Emma Thorne|
University of Nottingham