Nav: Home

Bacteria must be 'stressed out' to divide

October 21, 2019

A new study from EPFL scientists has found that bacteria use mechanical forces to divide, along with biological factors. The research, led by the groups of John McKinney and Georg Fantner at EPFL, came after recent studies suggested that bacterial division is not only governed by biology, but also by physics. However, this interplay is poorly understood.

Most bacteria are rod-shaped cells that multiply by doubling their length and dividing in the middle to yield two "daughter cells". Mechanisms that control these processes in space and time are critical for survival. The importance of these mechanisms becomes even clearer, given how pervasive bacteria are in everyday life, and how ubiquitous their use is in biotechnology.

The scientists studied bacteria that are very similar to the human pathogen that causes tuberculosis, which kills more people than any other infectious disease. To study the growth and division dynamics of these "mycobacteria" the scientists built a special instrument that combines optical and atomic force microscopy (AFM) to image and manipulate cells at the size scale of molecules.

The data showed that mycobacterial cell division requires mechanical forces in addition to previously identified division molecules (enzymes). Before a cell divides, there is a progressive build-up of mechanical stress in the cell wall, right at the point where the cell will divide.

The build-up eventually culminates in a millisecond-fast splitting of the cell into two new cells. Remarkably, when the researchers physically pressed on the bacteria with an ultra-sharp AFM needle, they caused instantaneous and premature cell division. "This experiment proves that physics is essential for this important biological process," says Georg Fantner.

But where is the biological part of the story? When a bacterial cell divides the two daughters must separate, a process mediated by enzymes that dissolve the molecular connections between them. The investigators found that this essential process could be bypassed by pressing on the nascent division site using the AFM needle.

"Our work demonstrates that biological enzymes and mechanical forces 'collaborate' to bring about the separation of daughter cells in bacterial cell division," says John McKinney.
-end-
Reference

Pascal D. Odermatt, Mélanie T. M. Hannebelle, Haig A. Eskandarian, Adrian P. Nievergelt, John D. McKinney, Georg E. Fantner. Overlapping and essential roles for molecular and mechanical mechanisms in mycobacterial cell division. Nature Physics 21 October 2019. DOI: 10.1038/s41567-019-0679-1

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Related Bacteria Articles:

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.
More Bacteria News and Bacteria Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: IRL Online
Original broadcast date: March 20, 2020. Our online lives are now entirely interwoven with our real lives. But the laws that govern real life don't apply online. This hour, TED speakers explore rules to navigate this vast virtual space.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#573 Penis. That's It. That's the title.
This episode is about penises. That was your content warning. Penises. Where they came from. Why they're useful. And the many, many wild things that animals do with them. Come for the world's oldest penis, stay for the creature that ejaculates 80 percent of its bodyweight. Host Bethany Brookshire talks with Emily Willingham about her new book, "Phallacy: Life Lessons from the Animal Penis".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Falling
There are so many ways to fall–in love, asleep, even flat on your face. This hour, Radiolab dives into stories of great falls.  We jump into a black hole, take a trip over Niagara Falls, upend some myths about falling cats, and plunge into our favorite songs about falling. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.