Researchers find bacteria causes a single celled organism to form colonies (Phys.org)

Inside eLife
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By Bob Yirka -

(Phys.org) -- Researchers working at a lab at Berkeley University, led by Nicole King, have uncovered the first example of a kind of bacteria that causes a single celled organism to form a colony, a finding that has implications for researchers looking into the origins of multi-celled organisms in general. The team has published their findings on the lab’s web site and their paper will appear in the first edition of the new open source journal eLIFE.

The team’s research centers on choanoflagellates, single celled organisms that swim around in water using their tails. In some settings, they swim around independently, while in others they form colonies in the shape of rosettes. King and her team spent several years trying to figure out why they sometimes go solo, and sometimes don’t. At one point, they applied an antibacterial agent to the environment in which specimens of organisms were living and found that afterwards, they all quit forming into colonies. That led to a search through some sixty strains of bacteria to determine which had caused the change. They finally found it, a new species, Algoriphagus machipongonensis. But of course, that was just the beginning. Next the team tore apart the bacteria trying to figure out what unique property it held that caused choanoflagellates to form into a colony. That led them to a lipid molecule they have named Rosette-Inducing Factor 1 (RIF-1). When choanoflagellates ingest the bacteria, they get a very tiny amount of RIF-1, and that is all it takes, apparently, for the daughter cells that are spawned to form the rosettes. Read more.