From December 16, 2010, to May 16, 2011.
Another six months, another 50-plus posts, another retrospective.
Ecology and Evolution
Energetics of the Eukaryotic Edge. Frank Harold discusses why eukaryotes have differentiated so much more than prokaryotes. They have a way of making more energy available per genome—the mitochondria.
Frost Flowers Come to Life. Jody Deming introduces us to unexpected microbial communities: biofilms under ice. A heartwarming finding!
Cyanobacteria: Growing a Green Future Around the Clock. Graduate students Spencer Diamond and Britt Flaherty explain how cyanobacteria break down their inactive photosynthetic enzymes at night and their nitrogen fixing ones during the day, all for the sake of saving their precious limited cache of iron.
Fine Reading: When Microbial Conversations Get Physical. We called attention to an inspired article by Gemma Reguera about how bacteria communicate via physical signals, not just chemical ones.
Bacterial History Found in Ancient Mud Scrolls. Did you ever wonder why dry mud cakes curl up? It’s because of the goo made by cyanobacteria.
A New Game for a New Year. Arsenic DNA? What ever happened to that?
My Geological Ignorance. Elio admits to having spent most of his life in blissful ignorance of geological matters and tells us why this is a dirty shame.
Geobacter: Microbial Superhero. Suzanne Winter tells us of the marvels of this metal-eating bacterium and its glories, including its electrical skills.
Prokaryotic Structure and Function
E. coli. Source.
Beyond the Bacterial Microcompartment. Smaller still, these nanocomparments are porous icosahedral protein shells are still large enough to enclose a protein payload and sequester a metabolic activity. Their structural similarities to viral capsids raise intriguing questions.
Coping with Hard Times: Death as an Option. The toxin-antitoxin system is not only widespread in the bacterial world, but it also depends on quorum sensing. It’s turning out to be a big deal.
Precious Metals. What if you cast a wide net to look for unexpected metals in bacteria and archaea? You would find twenty-one of them!
Hedging Your Bets. Bacteria that are born genetically equal aren't necessarily phenotypically the same. Simple regulatory circuits can lead to mixed populations of cells in different stable states, thus making the population better able to cope with environmental changes.
A Protection Racket. Restriction-modification (R-M) systems can protect a bacterium from infection by some phages, but it could be the "selfish" R-M systems that benefit the most.
Going to Great Lengths. Bacteria are indeed small things, but they have some very large genes encoding some exceedingly large proteins.
Microbial Embraces. The Borrelia of Lyme disease embrace one another by fusing stretches of their outer membrane. Is this biologically relevant?
Some Like it Hot. Marvin Friedman, our newest associate blogger, returns to the age old question of how proteins of hyperthermophiles are so stable. Posttranslational methylation of lysines may be involved.
Influenza virions. Source.
Endless Forms Most Viral. In his Perspective piece originally published in PLoS Genetics, Welkin Johnson introduces the exciting evolutionary stories being unearthed in genomes by paleovirologists.
Worms Have Viruses, Too! Once again we borrowed a post from the blog by Manuel Sánchez, Curiosidades de la Microbiología, this one reporting that viruses have now been found that infect that stellar model organism, C. elegans.
A Viral Pyramid Scheme. The archaeoviruses that infect Crenarchaeota in volcanic hot springs are eccentric from start to finish. To lyse their host cells and release their virions, they form distinctive 7-sided pyramids on the cell surface.
Six Questions About CRISPRs. In the three years since our previous post on these anti-viral defenses, much has been learned about how CRISPRs protect Bacteria and Archaea from viral infection. Researchers, too, are using CRISPRs as a "fossil" record that reveals the evolutionary history and previous viral encounters of their host cells.
Farmer Joe Dictyostelium. This slime mold feeds on bacteria. To ensure that future generations will be provided with this food, they carry some of the bacteria as “seeds” during differentiation.
Candida's Unstable Chromosomes & Unorthodox Sex. Dean Dawson discusses this yeast’s unorthodox sex life. Here, fusion of diploid cells leads to a vast array of chromosomal rearrangements.
Targeting an Achilles' Heel of Plasmodium. Marvin Friedman reports how P. falciparum obtains its isoleucine and why this matters to their drug resistance.
Pathogens, In And Out of Humans
Pneumococcus: Nature’s Tiniest Cheat. Graduate students Brandon Kim and Jon Sin discuss the guiles of the pneumococcus, how it removes sialic acid residues from competing bacteria, thus keeping them from adhering to host cells.
Designer Genes for Special Bacterial Lifestyles. Marvin Friedman discusses how some pathogens underwent genome reduction, others didn’t. It depends on their lifestyle.
Gut Microbes and the Infant Brain: A Surprising Symbiosis. Micah Manary, an MD/PhD student, delves into the finding that the gut microbiota influences the development of the nervous system, no less.
We’ve Figured It Out! After many decades, Elio thinks he and his friends have figured out a novel way to teach a graduate course—have an expert present each lecture!
Highlights of 2010. Some friends and colleagues answer our query and tell us what was their favorite microbiology research paper in 2010.
Of Terms of Biology: Colloids. Stefan Klumpp explains the meanings of this venerable term.