Bacteria use rippling effect to reach prey

Nov. 3, 2008 at 2:42 PM
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IOWA CITY, Iowa, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they've discovered some bacteria use a rippling motion involving thousands of cells working in concert to reach their prey.

Researchers at the University of Iowa, led by Associate Professor John Kirby, are studying that behavior in Myxococcus xanthus, a bacterium that preys on other bacteria, changing its structure and behavior in response to changing availability of prey.

"It may be that we can modify this predator-prey relationship or apply it to medically relevant situations," Kirby said. "It would be amazing if we could adapt its predatory ability to get rid of harmful bacteria that reside in places we don't want them, including in hospitals or on medical implants.

"When an M. xanthus aggregate is placed inside a colony of E. coli bacteria, the M. xanthus proceeds to eat the colony from the inside out and creates a rippling pattern as the swarm moves through the prey cells," Kirby said. "We now know that this rippling pattern is the highly organized behavior of thousands of cells working in concert to digest the prey."

The study appeared in the Oct. 24 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Topics: John Kirby
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