Episode Summary

Single-celled bacteria can act independently to create patterns and structure in their biofilm communities!

Microbe of the episode:

Dictyostelium discoideum Skipper virus

News Item

Jesse's takeaways

Large multicellular organisms like us have interesting mechanisms for using one set of genetic instructions present in all cells to form a large, complex community of many different types of cells with different structures and functions, all working together. Single-celled microbes do not have the same requirements for genetic or structural complexity, but they do often display interesting communal patterns and behaviors.

In this study, bacteria growing in colonies on agar displayed a particular mechanism of pattern formation previously seen only in eukaryotes, called segmentation clock or clock and wavefront process. In this process, the cells in the colony are all acting individually without communication with each other, but nevertheless form a repeating ring structure in the colony as it grows, possibly allowing some measure of differentiation of cells that could help the community survive various challenges.

Journal Paper

Chou K-T, Lee DD, Chiou J, Galera-Laporta L, Ly S, Garcia-Ojalvo J, Süel GM. 2022. A segmentation clock patterns cellular differentiation in a bacterial biofilm. Cell 185:145-157.e13.

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Bacillus subtilis