HomeScienceGenetic tools probe microbial dark matter

Genetic tools probe microbial dark matter

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Genetic manipulation of a puzzling, miniscule bacteria that has lived in human mouths at least since the Middle Stone Age is elucidating the genes needed for its unusual lifestyle. These Patescibacteria in the human oral microbiome reside on the surface of another, larger host microbe. Found in many water and land environments, Patescibacteria in general lack the genes required to make many molecules necessary for life, such as the amino acids that make up proteins, the fatty acids that form membranes, and the nucleotides in DNA. This has led researchers to speculate that many of them rely on other bacteria to grow. In a new study, researchers present the first glimpse into the molecular mechanisms behind their relationship with their host cells. They also share details gleaned from fluorescent, time-lapse microsopic imaging of these bacteria as they bud and send out swarms of tiny progeny, only a fraction of which are able to establish a host relationship.

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