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Date:7/20/2011

Bacteria Change Shape to Survive Overcrowding

One species of bacteria have developed a unique mechanism for coping with overpopulation. They change their shape. Researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, describe a newly discovered mechanism that the bacterium Paenibacillus dendritiformis uses to survive overcrowding.

P. dendritiformis is typically a rod-shaped bacterium. As it grows it produces a toxic protein, called sibling lethal factor (Slf) which kills cells of encroaching sibling colonies. However, the researchers found that sublethal levels of Slf induce some of the rods to switch Slf-resistant cocci-shaped bacteria.

When crowding is reduced and nutrients are no longer limiting, the bacteria produce another signal that induces the cocci to switch back to rods, allowing the population to spread.

http://mbio.asm.org/content/2/3/e00069-11


Another Way for Cholera to Cause Disease

Cholera is a severe diarrheal disease typically caused by the O1 strain of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. All pandemic O1 strains require two critical factors to cause disease: cholera toxin (CT) and toxin coregulated pilus (TCP). However, some nonpandemic strains of V. cholerae do not produce CT or TCP and yet still cause disease.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute studied one of those strains (AM-19226) which causes a rapidly fatal diarrheal disease in rabbits. Analysis of the genome showed that the bacterium lacked the genes that code for CT and TCP but instead carried a gene encoding a type III secretion system (TTSS), which other bacteria are known to use to infect host cells.

TTSS proved to be essential for AM-19226 virulence in rabbits. An AM-19226 derivative deficient for TTSS did not cause diarrhea or colonize the intestine.

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Contact: Jim Sliwa
jsliwa@asmusa.org
202-942-9297
American Society for Microbiology
Source:Eurekalert

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