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Amazing bacteria ‘homing missile’ that scientists want to control



Amazing bacteria 'homing missile' that scientists want to control

Illustrations of tailocins and altruistic deeds are drawn by author Vivek Mutalik̵

7;s daughter Antara.Credits: Antara Mutalik.

Imagine having deadly arrows when fired at your enemies. But it’s not dangerous if they fall on your friends. It is easy to see how these would be an amazing advantage in a war if they were real. However, there are some things like these arrows and are used in war … at different levels.


These weapons are called tailocins and are, in fact, almost stranger than fiction.

“Tailocins are very strong nanoproteins made from bacteria,” said Vivek Mutalik, a researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) who studies tailocins and viral phages that infect bacteria whose tailocins appear to be fragments. “They look like phages, but don’t have the capsid, the phage ‘headers’ that contain viral DNA and simulated machines, so they’re like spring-driven needles that move and are located on the target. It then appears to emerge all the way through the cell membrane, pitting to the cytoplasm, so the cell loses its ions and contents and collapses. “

A wide variety of bacteria can make tailocins, and appear to be able to do so under stress, as tailocins are only harmful to specific strains, in fact they are nicknamed. The “bacterial homing missile” telosin appears to be a tool bacteria use to compete with its rivals. Because of the similarity with phages, scientists believe that tailocins are produced by DNA, which was originally inserted into the bacterial genome during viral infection. (The virus advises the host to make more of itself.) And over time, bacteria evolve, leaving behind pieces of the phage DNA that are no longer useful. But still retains the part that can be chosen together for their own benefit

But unlike most of the abilities chosen by evolution, tailocins didn’t save an individual’s life.According to Mutalik, bacteria are killed if tailocins were created, just as they were infected by real phage viruses, as sharp nanomachines would erupt through. The membrane to exit the cells produced like simulated viral particles. But when released, tailocins target only certain strains, saving other cells of the hostage lineage.

“They have benefited from kinship. But that person was sacrificed, which is altruistic behavior. But we do not yet understand how this phenomenon occurs in nature, ”Mutalik said. Scientists do not yet know exactly how the telosin pistons work.

These topics and the tailocins as a whole are hot areas of research due to the many potential applications Mutalik and his colleagues in the Berkeley Lab’s Biosciences area, along with collaborators at UC Berkeley, are interested in. Control tailocins to better study microbiomes.Other groups are keen to use tailocins as an alternative to traditional antibiotics, which will eradicate beneficial strains alongside more bad and ineffective species due to their evolution. Drug resistance

In their latest paper, the Berkeley team working together explored the genetic basis and the physical mechanisms governing how tailocins attack specific species and looked at the genetic similarities and differences between tailocin producers and target species.

After examining 12 soil bacteria known to use tailocins, biologists found evidence that differences of lipid and sugars molecules trapped in the outer membranes of lipopolysaccharides Be able to determine if a particular species is a target of the tailocin or not.

“The bacteria we study live in challenging, resource-deprived environments, so we are interested to see how they can use tailocins to fight for their survival,” said Adam Archin, co-author and scientist. Said senior of the Faculty of Life Sciences. Space and technical co-manager of ecosystems and networks that integrate molecular genes and components (ENIGMA), Arkin’s scientific focus area, noted that although scientists could easily encourage bacteria to generate tailocins in the laboratory, they could easily produce tailocins. (And genes can be inserted into cultured strains for mass production, which can be helpful if we want to make tailocins for drugs) Regarding how bacteria deploy tailocins in their natural environment, as well as how and why – specific species are targeted with killer precision.

“Once we understand the targeting mechanism, we can start using these tailocins ourselves,” added Arkin. But it is incredible for the kind of science that we do, which is studying how microorganisms in the environment react and the role of these interactions in important ecological processes such as carbon sequestration and nitrogen processes.

It is now very difficult to understand what individual microbes in a community are doing as scientists cannot easily add and remove strains and observe results. With proper control of tailocins, these experiments can be easily performed.

Mutalik, Arkin and their colleagues are conducting a follow-up study with the goal of uncovering the mechanism of action of tailocins.They plan to use the advanced imaging facilities at Berkeley Lab to take level snapshots. All process atoms, from the moment the tailocin binds to the target cell, to the collapse of the cell. They basically film the frames of the slasher film with a microscope.


Storing an arsenal hidden in nature: a virus that infects bacteria.


More information:
Sean Carim et al, Systematic discovery of pseudomonad genetic factors associated with sensitivity to tailocins, ISME Journal (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41396-021-00921-1

Operated by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Reference: ‘Home missile’ of remarkable bacteria that scientists want to control (2021, April 7). Retrieved on April 7, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-04-incredible-bacterial-homing-missiles- scientists.html

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