Competitive bacteria evolve in biofilms | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 6 | p. 26 | Concentrates
Issue Date: February 5, 2007

Competitive bacteria evolve in biofilms

Department: Science & Technology | Collection: Critter Chemistry

Bacterial biofilms are responsible for the plaque on your teeth as well as persistent infections on medical devices, but how hundreds of species of competing bacteria coexist in these organized communities has been a mystery. Now, researchers in Denmark and New Zealand have made the first direct observation of the evolution of a relationship between two bacterial species in a biofilm and found that it turns into an exploitative interaction (Nature 2007, 445, 533). The first species metabolizes benzyl alcohol into benzoate, an essential carbon source for the second species. Although the two species initially live separately, several days and 40 generations later the species that needs the benzoate develops mutations in a gene involved in lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis, providing the bacteria with a "sticky exterior," notes coauthor Paul B. Rainey of the University of Auckland. The goo allows the benzoate utilizer to grow as a mantle over the bacteria that provide the carbon source, resulting in overall growth of the biofilm.

 
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