Bacteria Establish “Us vs Them”

It is well understood that many microbial species release amino acids and vitamins into the environment to benefit the population.  However, this behavior could be harmful if “outsider” species receive these molecules without contributing to the group. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute have observed the answer to this problem in biofilms. Using directed mutations, computer modeling and mass spectrometric imaging they created a new approach called “synthetic ecology”. Using this approach they found that “cooperating” bacteria create clusters and physically exclude “non-cooperating” bacteria. Notably, bacteria in liquid culture show no exclusion mechanisms. Given the significant health issues associated with bacterial biofilms, insight into their formation and persistence are crucial.

Cooperating bacteria isolate cheaters

Endotoxin bacteria

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