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Fungi: Another tool in bacteria's belt?
Date:11/28/2011

Bacteria and fungi are remarkably mobile. Now researchers at Tel Aviv University have discovered that the two organisms enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship to aid them in that movement and their survival.

Fungal spores can attach themselves to bacteria, "hitching a ride" wherever the bacteria travel. And while this allows them to travel further than they would on their own, says Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of TAU's Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Physics and Astronomy, it's certainly not a one-way street. Bacteria live largely in the rhizosphere the environment that surrounds plant roots where air pockets can interrupt their progress, he explains. When faced with a gap, the bacteria can drop the fungal spores to form a bridge, and continue across the chasm.

The research, which was recently published in PNAS, was done in collaboration with Dr. Colin J. Ingham of Wageningen University and JBZ Hospital in the Netherlands, the paper's lead author; post-doctoral fellow Dr. Alin Finkelshtein; and graduate student Oren Kalishman working in Prof. Ben-Eshel's TAU lab.

This discovery contributes to our understanding of the way bacteria and fungi spread. Confirmation that the two organisms work in collaboration will help scientists fight disease-causing bacteria, or promote the spread of "good kinds" of bacteria or fungi, such as those that contribute to the health of plants. "In addition we now know that when you fight fungi, you are also fighting bacteria and vice versa," notes Prof. Ben-Jacob.

A bridge to mutual survival

Mobile or "motile" bacteria, such as Paenibacillus vortex, are known to be able to carry cargo. With this in mind, the researchers were motivated to test whether P. vortex would be able to carry non-motile fungi, aiding in its dispersion. In fact, they observed that not only can the bacteria transport the fungi over long distances, like humans being carried by air travel,
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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