Bacterial Communication Resembles Neural Communication

Bacterial Communication Resembles Neural Communication

Very interesting research here that is changing the way scientist think about bacterial communications. Gurol Süel, a professor of molecular biology at UC San Diego, has found compelling evidence of bacteria using potassium to propagate electrical charges between each other in ways that echo the kinds of action potential found in neurons.

There is a lot to digest here, but one thing I found particularly interesting is the idea that this kind of electrical communication might have evolved into the more sophisticated version we see today in the animal kingdom.

The fact that microbes use potassium suggests that this is an ancient adaptation that developed before the eukaryotic cells that make up plants, animals and other life-forms diverged from bacteria, according to Jordi Garcia-Ojalvo, a professor of systems biology at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona who provided theoretical modeling to support Süel’s experiments. For the phenomenon of intercellular communications, he said, the bacterial channel “might be a good candidate for the evolutionary ancestor of the whole behavior.”

Thanks to Eli Fennell for finding this gem.

Originally shared by Eli Fennell

Bacteria May Be More ‘Brainlike’ Than We Ever Thought

Mention bacteria to most people, and they will usually imagine a swarm of discrete, individual organisms acting entirely for their own benefit, with nothing resembling the sophisticated cooperation of the cellular colonies making up the tissues, organs, and whole bodies of multicellular creatures like plants and animals. Through much of Scientific History, a similar view has prevailed with professionals in the field, modified somewhat by subsequent discoveries of various forms of chemical communication within bacterial colonies.

In recent years, however, a new trend has begun to emerge from the data: sophisticated electrical signal communication, both between bacterial cells of the same species, and even between bacterial cells of different species in some cases, enabling the sort of complex and rapid organization of cellular colonies found in multicellular species, and even resembling in some ways the neural communications involved in what we most properly call ‘behavior’. How much it resembles the latter is still debatable, but the resemblance is less than zero, and looking more similar all the time.

In addition to potential practical applications in biotechnology and nanotechnology, these findings may point the way towards better future treatments for infectious bacteria by disrupting their communications, or conversely for means of encouraging beneficial microbial action (e.g. aiding the beneficial microbes in human guts, and other such things).

It may also have ramifications for understanding the evolution of neural cells and brains, which may well be cases of more highly organized and sophisticated electrical cellular communication already present in our single celled ancestors.

#BlindMeWithScience #Microbiology #Evolution
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