Discovery of a new bacterium that attacks underwater microbes

For a long time, men have not ceased to consider the germs as the main source of their illnesses. However, a recent study by a team from theMax Planck Institute of marine microbiology demonstrated that these microorganisms could also be victims of other bacteria. According to analyses, these predatory bacteria can make their prey sick.

In fact, the first harmful micro-body identified by the researchers had been inhabiting the depths of their laboratory at the Institute for more than twenty years. baptized Velamenicoccus archaevorusit measures about 200 nanometers and is said to have originated in the digestion tower of the wastewater treatment plant ofOsterholz-Scharmeck.

the researcher Jens Harder and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen were behind this incredible discovery. The results of their analyzes appear in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Predation essential to the production of biogas

Following the discovery of the predatory bacteria, scientists wondered about the reason for its presence in the underwater depths. To answer this, they conducted an experiment in which special dyes were added to the filaments of Methanosaeta, another microbe found in sediment. With a special microscopethe biologists noticed that the cells of Methanosaeta were diseased or dead.

More impressive, these bits of filament contained neither ribosomal nucleic acids nor the genetic material that makes up living microbes. Obviously, these microorganisms essential to the biogas production had been preyed upon by ultrabacteria Velamenicoccus archaevorus.

“Most likely, the cause of the disease is an attached bacterium, and that attached bacterium is Velamenicoccus archaeovorus. »

Jens Harder, researcher at the Max Planck Institute in Bremen

A giant protein is their weapon

In order to understand how these bacteria proceeded to finish off their victim, scientists looked at their genome and the proteins they encode. According to their observation, the predator has a particularly remarkable gene and of impressive size. This allows the Velamenicoccus archaevorus to develop protein big enough to dissolve other microbes.

“While the average protein is made up of 333 amino acids, this gene codes for a protein of 39,678 amino acids. »

Jens Harder, researcher at the Max Planck Institute in Bremen

In addition, the presence of these ultrabacteria in the underwater depths raises important questions ecological. For the time being, the researchers think that these predators can intervene positively in the recycling of waste in the sediments.


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