Biologists have discovered a new mechanism for infecting cells with pathogenic bacteria

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have discovered a new type of bacteria that infects roundworms and noticed that they stretch into a thread to infect many cells.

Once a disease-causing bacterium has taken up residence in a cell of the host organism and multiplied in it, new bacteria get out and try to infect new cells. Sometimes they move to neighboring cells, forcing already infected ones to extend “bridges” from the cytoplasm to them.

However, the nematode parasite Bordetella atropi , discovered by biologists from the University of San Diego, uses a completely original method. Robert Luallen and colleagues describe this in an article published in the journal Nature Communications.

Bordetella atropi parasitizes roundworms Oscheius tipulae , common inhabitants of the soil. Bacteria are transmitted from body to body by the fecal-oral route, entering the intestinal tract and then penetrating epithelial cells.

Once in one of them, B. atropi changes dramatically, stops dividing and only grows. In about 30 hours, the bacterium stretches into a thread more than 100 times longer than it is wide, and penetrates several (scientists have noticed variants from three to eight) neighboring cells at once.

This allows you to actively absorb more resources, and when it comes time to multiply, the thread divides into many individual bacteria of the usual size and shape.

They enter the intestinal lumen and then into the environment, ready to infect new hosts. For nematodes, such infection is not in vain: according to Luallen and his colleagues, their life span is reduced by 2.5 times, and the number of offspring left by 90 times.

Biologists have previously known a similar process of elongation of bacterial cells: it is called filamentation . However, until now it has been associated only with stress.

Once in unfavorable or downright dangerous conditions, some bacteria, including even the common E. coli, can also stop dividing and instead grow by stretching out as a thread.

This unusual shape makes it difficult for them to be attacked by some antibiotics and cells of the immune system, allows them to “repair” damaged DNA and contributes to survival in a stressful situation.

But filamentation for the purpose of mass infection of cells was encountered by scientists for the first time, except for one old one-time observation in related bacteria Bordetella avium .

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