Episode Summary

Some bacteria produce antibiotics that can also help them gather more nutrients!

Microbe of the episode

Microbe of the episode: Diadromus pulchellus toursvirus

Jesse's takeaways

Antibiotics have saved a lot of lives since they were discovered and used to treat many previously untreatable bacterial infections. But bacteria themselves have been making antibiotics much longer than we have, to help compete in their environment. However, sometimes these compounds are not produced in large enough concentrations to act as antibiotics, killing or inhibiting rival bacteria. Why waste energy on this sublethal production? Are there other functions these molecules can perform?
In this study, bacteria produce an antibiotic called phenazine that can damage cell components by redox reactions, transferring electrons. But it can also help liberate the essential nutrient phosphorus from being bound to insoluble particles, allowing the bacteria to grow better even in the absence of competitors.

News Item(s)

Journal Paper

McRose DL, Newman DK. 2021. Redox-active antibiotics enhance phosphorus bioavailability. Science 371:1033–1037.

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Porous interior of bone