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Bacteria’s password for sporulation hasn’t changed in 2.7 billion years

27 Sep 2018, 21:00 UTC
Bacteria’s password for sporulation hasn’t changed in 2.7 billion years
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When it comes to changing their passwords, bacteria are just as bad as you and me — maybe even worse. A Carnegie Mellon University research team has found that despite 2.7 billion years of evolution, bacteria are still using the same “password” to initiate the process for making spores. Their findings were published in the September issue of PLOS Genetics. The Carnegie Mellon researchers, led by the Department of Biological Sciences’ Dannie Durand, used computational and experimental techniques to study how the signaling network that causes Bacilli and Clostridia to form spores has evolved since the two bacteria diverged from a common ancestor 2.7 billion years ago. Bacteria make spores when times are tough. A protective shell forms around dormant cells to let them withstand harsh conditions like heat, acidity and radiation. Understanding sporulation has implications for many fields, including health care. For example, the spores of C. difficile can survive hand sanitizer, making that bacterium the leading cause of hospital-acquired infections. Bacteria use “plug-and-play” signaling networks to sense and respond to environmental challenges. A sensor protein recognizes an environmental signal and passes a message to an activator protein, which turns on the appropriate response. Each sensor-activator pair has a ...

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