Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Film Time

Bacteria found to organise in a similar way to vertebrate cellular patterning - insight into tackling biofilms

21 January 2022

Film Time

Genes in developing animals and plants switch on or off – like paint brushes coming down and up on a page, they express different traits in different places at different times. Gradually an overall picture emerges. Such developmental ‘clocks’ define how plants and animal tissues organise and communicate in the overall organism. Here, researchers find similar mechanisms in an organism billions of years older. These Bacillus subtilis bacteria develop a pattern of concentric rings (artificially coloured here), each made of thousands of single bacterial cells and contributing to a thriving communal colony called a biofilm. Using a combination of mathematical modelling and experiments, researchers examine the genes helping to segment the bacteria, finding some rings serve as sites for the birth of new spores. Learning more about the underlying clock, and the evolution of development, may help in tackling stubborn biofilms in hospitals and kitchens, limiting the spread of infections.

Written by John Ankers

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