Monday, March 18, 2013

Did you know: some species of bacteria produce toxins that can kill themselves?

Mattes of cyanobacteria. Looking like an image from space,
 mattes of cyanobacteria thrive in the scalding waters of Biscuit Basin,
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. USA, Yellowstone National 
Cyanobacteria are more commonly known as blue-green algae, some of which produce cyanotoxins that can be harmful to themselves and other species. This production of toxins is part of a system in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis that assure that the plasmid pSYSA is maintained in their lineage. Research performed at the University of Freiburg and published in two recent articles propose that this is due to this plasmid containing genetic information for a bacterial immune system. The presence of this plasmid is maintained by seven toxin-antitoxin pairs on the plasmid.

The basis behind a toxin-antitoxin system is that as long as the plasmid is present both toxin and anti-toxin are continually produced and the bacteria survives. However, the toxin that is produced is much more stable than the anti-toxin. So, if a bacteria loses the plasmid during cell division they lose the ability to produce anti-toxin but they are still in an environment that contains the stable toxin and therefore they perish.

There are a number of ways to monitor bacterial growth. But if you want to employ nepholometry in a microplate format only the NEPHELOstar Plus from BMG LABTECH allows you to do so.

Articles:

CRISPR-Cas Systems in the Cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 Exhibit Distinct Processing Pathways Involving at Least Two Cas6 and a Cmr2 Protein



Toxin-Antitoxin Systems on the Large Defense Plasmid pSYSA of Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803