Plant leaves constitute a huge microbial habitat of global importance. How microorganisms survive the dry daytime on leaves and avoid desiccation is not well understood. There is evidence that microscopic surface wetness in the form of thin films and micrometer-sized droplets, invisible to the naked eye, persists on leaves during daytime due to deliquescence - the absorption of water until dissolution - of hygroscopic aerosols. Here we study how such microscopic wetness affects cell survival. We show that, on surfaces drying under moderate humidity, stable microdroplets form around bacterial aggregates due to capillary pinning and deliquescence. Notably, droplet-size increases with aggregate-size, and cell survival is higher the larger the droplet. This phenomenon was observed for 13 bacterial species, two of which - Pseudomonas fluorescens and P. putida - were studied in depth. Microdroplet formation around aggregates is likely key to bacterial survival in a variety of unsaturated microbial habitats, including leaf surfaces.
All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files. Source data files have been provided for Figures 2,3 and 5.
- Nadav Kashtan
- Nadav Kashtan
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Wenying Shou, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, United States
© 2019, Grinberg et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Synthetic autotrophy is a promising avenue to sustainable bioproduction from CO2. Here, we use iterative laboratory evolution to generate several distinct autotrophic strains. Utilising this genetic diversity, we identify that just three mutations are sufficient for Escherichia coli to grow autotrophically, when introduced alongside non-native energy (formate dehydrogenase) and carbon-fixing (RuBisCO, phosphoribulokinase, carbonic anhydrase) modules. The mutated genes are involved in glycolysis (pgi), central-carbon regulation (crp), and RNA transcription (rpoB). The pgi mutation reduces the enzyme’s activity, thereby stabilising the carbon-fixing cycle by capping a major branching flux. For the other two mutations, we observe down-regulation of several metabolic pathways and increased expression of native genes associated with the carbon-fixing module (rpiB) and the energy module (fdoGH), as well as an increased ratio of NADH/NAD+ - the cycle’s electron-donor. This study demonstrates the malleability of metabolism and its capacity to switch trophic modes using only a small number of genetic changes and could facilitate transforming other heterotrophic organisms into autotrophs.
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