Bacteria are as individual as people, according to new research by Professor Peter Young and his team in the Department of Biology at the University of York. Bacteria are essential to health, agriculture and the environment, and new research tools are starting to shed more light on them.
The York team dug up a square metre of roadside verge on the University campus in search of a bacterium called Rhizobium leguminosarum. The name means “root dweller of the legumes”, and these bacteria are natural fertilizer factories that extract nitrogen from the air and make it available to peas, beans, clover and their wild relatives.
In the laboratory, the team extracted the bacteria from the plant roots and established 72 separate strains. They determined the DNA sequence of the genome of each strain. Their research, published today in Open Biology, shows that each of those 72 strains is unique – each has different genes and is capable of growing on different food sources.
People are unique because each of us inherits half our genes from our mother and half from our father, but bacteria reproduce by binary fission, making two identical daughters. What bacteria are good at, though, is passing packages of genes from one cell to another. It is this process of horizontal gene transfer that made every rhizobium unique. More.
And get this:
“Bacteria are like smartphones. Each phone comes out of the factory with standard hardware and operating system (core genome), but gains a unique combination of capabilities through apps (accessory genes) downloaded through the internet (by horizontal gene transfer).”
And, unlike smartphones, it all just happened somehow? If so, then where are those Boltzmann brains that should also have just happened?
See also: Bacteria develop antibiotic resistance by using DNA from dead bax
Bacteria use small spear to acquire antibiotic resistant genes
Horizontal gene transfer: Jumping gene jumped to all three domains of life?
Horizontal gene transfer goes big time (“The fact that horizontal gene transfer happens among eukaryotes does not require a complete overhaul of standard evolutionary theory, but it does compel us to make some important adjustments. …” No. It really IS a big overhaul.)
Follow UD News at Twitter!
Hat tip: Timothy Kershner