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Cell. 2011 Feb 18;144(4):590-600. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.01.015.

Intercellular nanotubes mediate bacterial communication.

Author information

1
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada, The Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

Abstract

Bacteria are known to communicate primarily via secreted extracellular factors. Here we identify a previously uncharacterized type of bacterial communication mediated by nanotubes that bridge neighboring cells. Using Bacillus subtilis as a model organism, we visualized transfer of cytoplasmic fluorescent molecules between adjacent cells. Additionally, by coculturing strains harboring different antibiotic resistance genes, we demonstrated that molecular exchange enables cells to transiently acquire nonhereditary resistance. Furthermore, nonconjugative plasmids could be transferred from one cell to another, thereby conferring hereditary features to recipient cells. Electron microscopy revealed the existence of variously sized tubular extensions bridging neighboring cells, serving as a route for exchange of intracellular molecules. These nanotubes also formed in an interspecies manner, between B. subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus, and even between B. subtilis and the evolutionary distant bacterium Escherichia coli. We propose that nanotubes represent a major form of bacterial communication in nature, providing a network for exchange of cellular molecules within and between species.

PMID:
21335240
DOI:
10.1016/j.cell.2011.01.015
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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