Microbes may have the capacity for a type of learning generally attributed to higher organisms, suggests a linkurl:paper;http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1154456 published online in Science today (May 8). "We have to start to think about bacterial behavior in a more sophisticated way," said linkurl:Saeed Tavazoie;http://genomics.princeton.edu/tavazoie/web/homes.html of Princeton University, who led the study. Researchers have long assumed that microbes respond to changes in their environment in a simple, straightforward manner. If the osmolarity in your gut suddenly rises, for example, microbes populating it will tweak their own osmolarity intracellularly to match. But Tavazoie suspected that homeostasis wasn't the whole story, since microbial responses sometimes don't directly relate to a stimulus. For example, after experiencing a raise in temperature, bacteria often scale down linkurl:oxygen metabolism;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23245/ -- a seemingly unrelated move. "We hypothesized that these non-homeostatic responses were adaptations not to the conditions themselves, but to what [the conditions] mean to the organism in its native...
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