Monday, July 15, 2019

BacterioFiles 391 - Slime Stores Sodium Sensibility

Physarum polycephalum on a log
By frankenstoen - flickr, CC BY 2.5
This episode: Slime molds can learn to get used to salt and hold on to that memory even after a period of dormancy!

Download Episode (8.9 MB, 9.7 minutes)

Show notes:
Microbe of the episode: Nocardia transvalensis

News item

Takeaways
Slime mold Physarum polycephalum has many surprisingly intelligent abilities, despite being only a single cell. Studying how these abilities work in the cell can teach us new ways that life can do things. The ability of interest here is habituation, or learning not to avoid a chemical that seems unpleasant to the cell but is not necessarily harmful, especially with a food reward.

The slime mold can become habituated to salt, in this case, learning to tolerate it enough to pass through a gradient of increasing concentration to get to some food as quickly as it crosses the same distance with no salt present. The scientists here learned that the cell takes up sodium into itself as it habituates, and holds onto both sodium and its memory through a period of hibernation.

Journal Paper:
Boussard A., Delescluse J., PĂ©rez-Escudero A., Dussutour A. 2019. Memory inception and preservation in slime moulds: the quest for a common mechanism. Phil Trans R Soc B 374:20180368.

Post questions or comments here or email to bacteriofiles@gmail.com. Thanks for listening!

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Floor Fungi Fracture Phthalates

Monday, July 8, 2019

BacterioFiles 390 - Friendly Phages Find Foes

E. coli bacteria
This episode: Bacteria carry deadly phages and use them against rival strains!

Download Episode (9.4 MB, 10.2 minutes)

Show notes:
Microbe of the episode: Bifidobacterium bifidum

News item

Takeaways
Bacteria such as Escherichia coli live in environments such as the gut with many other types of microbes, and often develop communities of microbes cooperating and/or competing with each other for resources. But in order to cooperate or compete, bacteria must first be able to identify and discriminate between themselves and others. Sometimes microbes do this by exchanging membrane molecules, or secreting chemical signals that only partners can detect, or transferring plasmids or producing antimicrobial compounds that kill competitors.

In the current study, scientists discovered a strain of E. coli that carries around phages that help them distinguish other strains and compete with them. When this strain encounters another, the phages it carries attack and destroy cells of the other strain, while leaving the carrier strain mostly unharmed. This strategy is not without cost, though; the viral proteins take resources to produce, and when there's no competing strains around, the virus can attack its carrier to some extent.

Journal Paper:
Song S, Guo Y, Kim J-S, Wang X, Wood TK. 2019. Phages Mediate Bacterial Self-Recognition. Cell Reports 27:737-749.e4.

Other interesting stories:

Post questions or comments here or email to bacteriofiles@gmail.com. Thanks for listening!

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts, RSS, Google Play. Support the show at Patreon, or check out the show at Twitter or Facebook.
Floor Fungi Fracture Phthalates

Monday, July 1, 2019

BacterioFiles 389 - Prokaryotes Pacify Protein Problem

E. coli bacteria
This episode: Engineered bacteria could help people digest an essential nutrient when they can't digest it themselves!

Download Episode (8.5 MB, 9.3 minutes)

Show notes:
Microbe of the episode: Kadipiro virus

News item (paywall)

Science-Based Medicine blog article about phenylketonuria, Synlogic, and engineering bacteria to treat this disorder, with lots of good detail

Takeaways
Treating genetic disorders can be very difficult. Sometimes they can be managed, with lifestyle, diet, or medication, but cure has almost always been out of the picture. With a disorder such as phenylketonuria (PKU), for example, in which the body is unable to fully metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine, diet and medication may work to some extent.

In an effort to provide better options for PKU, scientists at Synlogic, Inc have created a strain of Escherichia coli that produces phenylalanine-degrading enzymes in the gut. The hope is that ingesting this bacterium could allow PKU patients to be less restrictive with their diet.

Journal Paper:
Isabella VM, Ha BN, Castillo MJ, Lubkowicz DJ, Rowe SE, Millet YA, Anderson CL, Li N, Fisher AB, West KA, Reeder PJ, Momin MM, Bergeron CG, Guilmain SE, Miller PF, Kurtz CB, Falb D. 2018. Development of a synthetic live bacterial therapeutic for the human metabolic disease phenylketonuria. Nat Biotechnol 36:857–864.

Other interesting stories:

Post questions or comments here or email to bacteriofiles@gmail.com. Thanks for listening!

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts, RSS, Google Play. Support the show at Patreon, or check out the show at Twitter or Facebook.
Floor Fungi Fracture Phthalates