All living things must obey the laws of physics, including the second law of thermodynamics. Highly ordered cells and organisms appear to contradict this principle, but they actually do conform because they generate heat that increases the universe’s overall entropy. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist mathematically modeled the replication of E. coli bacteria and found that the process is nearly as efficient as possible.
By any measure, tuberculosis (TB) is a wildly successful pathogen. It infects as many as two billion people in every corner of the world, with a new infection of a human host estimated to occur every second. Now, thanks to a new analysis of dozens of tuberculosis genomes gathered from around the world, scientists are getting a more detailed picture of why TB is so prevalent and how it evolves to resist countermeasures.
Scientists at Switzerland have developed a new method for making antimicrobial surfaces that can eliminate bacteria under a minute. The breakthrough relies on a new sputtering technique that uses a highly ionized plasma to, for the first time, deposit antibacterial titanium oxide and copper films on 3-D polyester surfaces. This promotes the production of free radicals, which are powerful natural bactericides.
A fungus and E. coli bacteria have joined forces to turn tough, waste plant material into isobutanol, a biofuel that matches gasoline's properties better than ethanol. Univ. of Michigan research team members said the principle also could be used to produce other valuable chemicals such as plastics.
In two NASA-funded studies, biofilms made by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa were cultured on Earth and aboard space shuttle Atlantis in 2010 and 2011 to determine the impact of microgravity on their behavior. After comparing the biofilms grown on the ground with those grown on space station-bound shuttles, study results show for the first time that spaceflight changes the behavior of bacterial communities.
A new study by Rice Univ. biophysicists offers the most comprehensive picture yet of the molecular-level action of melittin, the principal toxin in bee venom. The research could aid in the development of new drugs that use a similar mechanism as melittin’s to attack cancer and bacteria.
It’s counterintuitive but true: Some microorganisms that use flagella for locomotion are able to swim faster in gel-like fluids such as mucus. Research engineers at Brown Univ. have figured out why. It's the angle of the coil that matters.
In 1998, scientists published the first complete genome of a multicellular organism—the worm Caenorhabditis elegans. At the same time, new technologies were emerging to help researchers manipulate genes and learn more about their functions.
More forms of mercury can be converted to deadly methylmercury than previously thought, according to a study published in Nature Geoscience.The discovery provides scientists with another piece of the mercury puzzle, bringing them one step closer to understanding the challenges associated with mercury cleanup.
Certain bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, have the ability to deploy tiny darts. This biological weapon kills the host cell by piercing the membrane. Researchers have unlocked, piece by piece, this intriguing little machine and found an assembly of proteins that, in unfolding at the right time, takes the form of a spur.
A study at the Univ. of Utah finds that more than 60% of antibiotic prescriptions are for types that kill multiple kinds of bacteria. Unfortunately, in more than 25% of cases such prescriptions are useless because the infection stems from a virus, which cannot be treated with antibiotics. This overuse of antibiotics has a number of downsides.
The bacterium Yersinia can cause a variety of symptoms, including abdominal pain, fever and diarrhea. The bacterium’s pathogenic potential is based on a syringe-like injection apparatus called the injectisome. For the first time, an international team of researchers including scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research Germany, has unraveled this molecular syringe’s spatial conformation.
All plants need nitrogen to convert into ammonia, but only a small number of plants can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. The rest are helped by synthetic fertilizers, which have been blamed for nitrogen pollution. A scientist in the U.K., Edward Cocking, has found a specific strain of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in sugar cane which he discovered could intracellularly colonize all major crop plants. The technology is being commercialized.
The use of enzymes from thermophiles—microbes that thrive at extremely high temperatures and alkaline conditions—holds promise for extracting fermentable sugars from lignocellulosic biomass. Finding the most effective of these microbial enzymes has been a challenge, but Joint BioEnergy Institute scientists have recently made progress in this area by adapting a combination of metagenomic and metaproteomic technologies.
The discovery of a gene's function in E. coli and other bacteria might lead to a probiotic to prevent the most common type of kidney stone, according to a Purdue Univ. study. Human cells can't metabolize oxalate, an acidic chemical found in nearly all plants we eat, so any oxalate we absorb from food must be excreted from the body. Calcium-oxalate urinary stones can form when oxalate reaches a high concentration in the kidneys.
Could there come a time in which the carbon dioxide emitted from coal-burning power plants is harvested and used to produce clean, green and renewable liquid transportation fuels? A pathway to that possibility has been opened by a team of researchers with the Joint BioEnergy Institute who have engineered a microbe now being used to produce biodegradable plastic into a strain that can produce a high-performance advanced biofuel.
Purple bacteria contain pigments that allow them to use sunlight as their source of energy. Small as they are, these microbes can teach us a lot about life on Earth, because they have been around longer than most other organisms on the planet. A Univ. of Miami physicist recently found that these organisms can also survive in the presence of extreme alien light.
Using several imaging techniques, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists found that a common soil bacterium stays connected by a network of chain-like membranes. They believe the bacterium uses its network to coordinate social activities—such as evading bacterial enemies and snaring prey—without revealing its location.
Microbiologists in France are reinvigorating a way of battling C. difficile infections that they hope will help overcome the growing problem of antibiotic resistant superbugs in hospitals. Using a model human colon, the researchers showed that the administration of a specific bacteriophage significantly reduced toxins and the number of C. difficile cells produced without significantly affecting the other members of the gut microbiota.
The interior of a living cell is a crowded place, with proteins and other macromolecules packed tightly together. A team of scientists at Carnegie Mellon Univ. has approximated this molecular crowding in an artificial cellular system and found that tight quarters help the process of gene expression, especially when other conditions are less than ideal.
Scientists at the Univ. of East Anglia are developing a new class of anti-cancer drugs that are not only powerful but also circumvent a primary cause of resistance to chemotherapy. The work is inspired by nature’s fungus farmer, the leaf cutter ant.
On Monday, the National Academy of Sciences announced a three-year grant to chemist Vincent Rotello at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to develop, test and deploy new, sensitive, reliable and affordable inkjet-printed, nanoparticle-based test strips for detecting disease-causing bacteria in drinking water.
Biomaterials are susceptible to microbial colonization, which is why silver is often added to reduce the adhesion rate of bacteria. However, a recent study by researchers in Portugal suggests that—in one material—increasing levels of silver may indirectly promote bacterial adhesion instead of decrease it.
Research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has revealed how protein degradation is critical to cell cycle progression and bacterial development. The team used a combination of biochemistry and mass spectrometry to “trap” scores of new candidate substrates of the protease ClpXP. These substrates cover all aspects of bacterial growth and development.
By rerouting the metabolic pathway that makes fatty acids in E. coli bacteria, researchers at Harvard University have devised a new way to produce a gasoline-like biofuel. According to the scientists, who are tweaking metabolic pathways in bacteria, new lines of engineered bacteria can tailor-make key precursors of high-octane biofuels that could one day replace gasoline.