Bursts of diversity in the gut microbiota

March 12, 2020

Scientists have been realizing that bacteria can mutate and evolve in our intestines much faster than previously thought. But know, researchers from the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, have found that certain bacteria cells can evolve to mutate at rates 1000-fold higher than normal - called mutators - and thus generate bursts of diversity at unprecedented amounts.

Using laboratory mice and focusing on a gut bacteria that colonizes all humans, they show that amongst sea of rubbish, caused by many mutations which reduced the fitness of the mutators, a ruby was found: a beneficial mutation that increases the ability of the bacteria to eat a specific sugar in the gut and is responsible for the burst of diversity observed. This finding helps to explain the uniqueness of the microbiome within each person and the variation observed after some therapeutic interventions.

The study, published in PLoS Biology, carried out at Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência. Ricardo Ramiro, first author of the study, states "we colonized mice with bacteria isolated from humans and observed the natural emergence of bacteria with extremely high mutation rates, which was perplexing to us." Akin to "bacterial cancer", these bacteria evolve at high speed but will carry hundreds of harmful mutations. The latter should render them unable to compete with the other microbiota members. However, these speedy bacteria could persist for long periods of time. "This was because the effect of the harmful mutations is much weaker than previously thought, but also because the lineages that acquire beneficial mutations do not become dominant", concluded Ricardo Ramiro.

Isabel Gordo, leader of the research group at IGC, states that "in the future, we want to find ways to modulate the effects of mutations, via diet interventions or chemical compounds, so that we can make harmful mutations more harmful for pathogenic bacteria and beneficial mutations more beneficial to help to keep the good bacteria in our guts".

Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia

Related Bacteria Articles from Brightsurf:

Siblings can also differ from one another in bacteria
A research team from the University of Tübingen and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) is investigating how pathogens influence the immune response of their host with genetic variation.

How bacteria fertilize soya
Soya and clover have their very own fertiliser factories in their roots, where bacteria manufacture ammonium, which is crucial for plant growth.

Bacteria might help other bacteria to tolerate antibiotics better
A new paper by the Dynamical Systems Biology lab at UPF shows that the response by bacteria to antibiotics may depend on other species of bacteria they live with, in such a way that some bacteria may make others more tolerant to antibiotics.

Two-faced bacteria
The gut microbiome, which is a collection of numerous beneficial bacteria species, is key to our overall well-being and good health.

Microcensus in bacteria
Bacillus subtilis can determine proportions of different groups within a mixed population.

Right beneath the skin we all have the same bacteria
In the dermis skin layer, the same bacteria are found across age and gender.

Bacteria must be 'stressed out' to divide
Bacterial cell division is controlled by both enzymatic activity and mechanical forces, which work together to control its timing and location, a new study from EPFL finds.

How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.

The bacteria building your baby
Australian researchers have laid to rest a longstanding controversy: is the womb sterile?

Hopping bacteria
Scientists have long known that key models of bacterial movement in real-world conditions are flawed.

Read More: Bacteria News and Bacteria Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.