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Mark O. Martin

It's an interesting speculation, and I look forward to seeing more research on this topic.

Many people have wondered/speculated about intracellular symbionts or parasites of bacteria and archaeans. There have been a couple of reports, once again in unusual organisms found in insects (what is it with weird microbes and insects---a derivative of Haldane's aphorism about God having an inordinate fondness for beetles?)

von Dohlen CD, Kohler S, Alsop ST, McManus WR. (2001). "Mealybug beta-proteobacterial endosymbionts contain gamma-proteobacterial symbionts." Nature 412:433-436.


Thao ML, Gullan PJ, Baumann P. (2002). "Secondary (gamma-Proteobacteria) endosymbionts infect the primary (beta-Proteobacteria) endosymbionts of mealybugs multiple times and coevolve with their hosts." Appl Environ Microbiol.68:3190-3197.

I have discussed this with several colleagues, and they are all more than a little suspicious of this idea, and suspect that prokaryotic (sorry, Norm) phagocytosis may be lethal to the cell. On the other hand, Liz Sockett's group at Nottingham took some dynamite EMs of Bdellovibrio invading E. coli, creating a bdelloplast with the predator's flagellum protruding outside the prey cell wall!

So who knows? What I do know is that the microbial world echoes Haldane's famous statement that the universe (read "microbial world") is not stranger than we imagine; it is stranger than we can imagine.

What a great time to be a microbiologist!

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