1. Microbiology and Infectious Disease
  2. Plant Biology
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Bacterial Blooms: The social life of cyanobacteria

  1. Conrad W Mullineaux  Is a corresponding author
  2. Annegret Wilde
  1. School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom
  2. Institute of Biology III, University of Freiburg, Germany
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Cite this article as: eLife 2021;10:e70327 doi: 10.7554/eLife.70327
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Collective behaviour and lifestyle choices in single-celled cyanobacteria.

Bacteria can stay in suspension as individual cells, adhere collectively to surfaces to form biofilms, passively sediment, or flocculate to form suspended aggregates. Cyanobacteria are able to produce sulphated polysaccharides (yellow haze surrounding clumps of cells) that enable them to form floating aggregates. Maeda et al. discovered that the oxygen produced by the cyanobacteria becomes trapped in the network of polysaccharides and cells, enabling the microorganisms to form buoyant blooms. It is thought that specific protein fibres known as pili (represented as lines radiating from the cells) may act as an additional way to link cells to each other or onto surfaces. Some cyanobacteria also use sophisticated intracellular gas vesicles as floating aids.

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