Episode Summary

Bacteria can resist the force of gravity in liquid culture by covering themselves with goopy sugar polymers like parachutes!

Microbe of the episode

Microbe of the episode: Brevicoryne brassicae virus

Jesse's takeaways

Put bacteria in a centrifuge, and most of the time you end up with a compact pellet of cells at the bottom of the tube, and mostly cell-free liquid above it. Bacteria do have ways to remain suspended in liquid, even without constant stirring or shaking of the container, but swimming, for example, consumes energy.
In this study, artificial selection allowed the discovery of bacteria that could resist centrifuging speeds up to 15000 times the force of gravity, remaining suspended in liquid instead of forming a pellet. Production of polysaccharide was important, but not sufficient; for the most resistance to sinking, bacteria had to attach the polysaccharide to their cell surface, to act as a sort of parachute.

Journal Paper

Kessler NG, Caraballo Delgado DM, Shah NK, Dickinson JA, Moore SD. 2021. Exopolysaccharide Anchoring Creates an Extreme Resistance to Sedimentation. J Bacteriol 203(11):e00023-21.

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Porous interior of bone