Printer Friendly

A bacteria's kill switch.

Glow-in-the-dark bacteria living in nematode worms flip a genetic switch to change from peaceful cohabitants into killers. The M-form (M for mutualism) of Photorhabdus luminescens bacteria make friendly colonies (green) inside nematodes.

But the microbes switch to the deadly toxin-producing P-form (P for pathogenic, red) when their hosts are ready to eat an insect from the inside out. Worms vomit up the bacteria into insects, and the bacterial toxins kill and help digest the feast. The transformation between mild-mannered and killer forms depends on the orientation of a piece of DNA called the madswitch promoter, Harvard and Michigan State researchers report in the July 6 Science. In the "on" direction, madswitch turns on genes needed for the bacteria to live inside worms and damps down production of substances that help kill insects. Bacteria with the promoter in the "off" direction are the killer type.


Please note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.

COPYRIGHT 2012 Society for Science and the Public
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Genes & Cells
Author:Saey, Tina Hesman
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 28, 2012
Previous Article:Tomato breeding sacrifices taste: sugar-boosting gene turned off in quest for consistent color.
Next Article:Inflation on trial: astrophysicists interrogate one of their most successful theories.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters