Researchers demonstrate hidden feature in bacteria


The bacteria has ability to recognize the surroundings with no sensory organs. The researchers explained about bacteria that responds to chemical signals and have sense of touch.

A group of researchers led by Prof. Urs Jenal from University of Basel’s Biozentrum found bacteria identifies the surfaces and responds to mechanical stimulus. Similarly, pathogens find and attack their host cells. In our body there are different tissues for bacterial pathogens to enter from membrane mucosa.

Pathogens make mechanical stimulation as functionality to encourage the harmfulness of disease and to control host tissue to damage. The research group recently determine how bacteria sense on surface and the crucial reaction of first few seconds.

Mechano-Sensing Organ

image credit: University of Basel

“However, we have little knowledge of how bacteria read out mechanical stimuli and how they change their behavior in response to these cues,” says Jenal. “Using the non-pathogenic Caulobacter as a model, our group was able to show for the first time that bacteria have a ‘sense of touch’. The technique helps to study surfaces and to make the production of the cell’s own instant adhesive.”

Caulobacter bacteria which swims with cell envelope with a long protrusion have a rotating motor, the flagellum. The rotor is also used as a mechano-sensing organ. The flagellum rotates and helps the bacteria to move in liquids.

Proton flow into the cell from ion channels and Powers Motor rotation. During swimming cells touch surfaces, the motor is disturbed and the proton flux interrupted.

Production of  Adhesin

However, the bacterial cell now boosts the synthesis of a second messenger, which in turn stimulates the production of an adhesin that firmly anchors the bacteria on the surface within a few seconds. “This is an impressive example of how rapidly and specifically bacteria can change their behavior when they encounter surfaces,” says Jenal.

“Even though Caulobacter is a harmless environmental bacterium, our findings are highly relevant for the understanding of infectious diseases.

They discovered in Caulobacter also applies to important human pathogens,” says Jenal. In order to better control and treat infections, it is mandatory to better understand processes that occur during these very first few seconds after surface contact.

[source: University of Basel]