Should I kill or should I go? Bacteria making decisions

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Many bacteria have a deadly weapon called type 6 secretion system. But having this powerful weapon, how would bacteria know when to use it or not? 

They can’t just fire these arrows randomly all the time. Producing the machine as well as the arrows costs a lot of energy. Hence, bacteria need to make sure they only produce and fire this weapon when required.

Two recent studies looked at four different bacterial species from the Vibrio family and tried to understand whether the species would regulate the production and firing of this weapon in a similar manner.

They focused on Vibrio cholerae, which is the causative bacterium for choleric diarrhoea; on Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which is a seafood-borne cause for gastroenteritis; Vibrio alginolyticus, another seafood-poisoning cause, and the squid symbiont Vibrio fischeri.

All of these bacteria live in marine environments and can live in or infect fish or seafood, which is why they are being studied in depth. They also contain at least one of the T6SS killer weapons.

In the two studies, that I also explain in depth, the researchers used different methodological approaches, but they came to similar conclusions.

Read the whole article here:

Should I kill or should I go?

And the studies here:

https://doi.org/10.1111/1462-2920.14562

https://doi.org/10.1111/1462-2920.14594

https://doi.org/10.1111/1462-2920.14830

Sarah Wettstadt

Science Writer, MicroComms

Dr Sarah Wettstadt is a microbiologist-turned science writer and communicator working on various outreach projects and helping researchers talk and write about their scientific results. Her overall vision is to empower through learning: she shares scientific knowledge with both scientists and non-scientists and coaches scientists in writing about their research. Sarah is blog commissioner for the FEMSmicroBlog and was a social media editor for FEMS for 1.5 years. Furthermore, she writes the blog BacterialWorld explaining bacterial concepts and co-founded the STEM-video platform STEMcognito. Previous to her science communication career, she worked as a postdoc in Marían Llamas’ lab on Pseudomonas aeruginosa’s ability to use heterologous iron sources and completed her PhD with Alain Filloux investigating the type 6 secretion system in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.