bacterie mutante dessin oeuvre nuit etoilee van gogh

Mutant bacteria recreate iconic Van Gogh canvas

Van Gogh lives again, but as we would have imagined. In fact, one of his works was reproduced… by bacteria. How is it possible ?

From time to time, art and science come together. Researchers were amazed that bacteria had unintentionally recreated a picture of what looks like a familiar masterpiece. Indeed, these bacteria are social move and feed in swarms coordinated.

A work by Van Gogo reinvented by bacteria

When a certain uncomfortable is overexpressed in the bacteria Myxococcus xanthus, these individual organisms self-organize into circular swarms within hours. Once formed, the swarms are artificially colored. The scene, at x10 magnification, looks curiously like ” The starry Night By Van Gogh.

Most bacteria are individualistic. Myxococcus xanthus, meanwhile, is social. She needs to be with her fellow human beings. Each cell produces enzymes which facilitate the nourishment of the colony. When the swarm encounters prey, experiments show that organisms pool their enzymes and metabolites to capture and digest their prey.

The genes of social behavior in bacteria

In 2017, Wall et al. Announced the discovery of a switch genetic responsible for enabling and disabling this behavior. This is a protein sequence called “TraA” which provides a surface receptor for the bacteria to recognize and attach to the receptor “TraB” from his family. Once linked to the swarm via these 2 receptors “TraAB”, the bacteria can then move around, exchange nutrients and proteins with the rest of the group.

However, a overexpression induced by TraAB by mutant individuals becomes a limiting factor for the movement of a swarm. Researchers have been fascinated by this social behavior for years, but still do not have an accepted model for their complex movements.

The movement of swarms

TraAB is not not regulating of the movements of a swarm, only of its adhesion. explain that :

“Normal, wild-type cells come and go, like a commuter train. (…) There seems to be a signal depending on the contact between the cells which suppresses the inversions. “

Oleg Igoshin, Bioengineer at Rice University

This means that the head and tail reverse after 8 minutes. This reversibility stops following the overexpression of the TraAB gene giving a winding of more than one millimeter. Other experiments then confirmed that the windings occur in the nature when a strain undergoes a mutation making movement “Non-reversible”.

This result is not just a advanced understanding the cells that coordinate their movements. It is also a fascinating picture of the microbial world.

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