Trading resistance via nanotubes?

Bacteria may be able to exchange large molecules -- including those that confer antibiotic resistance -- via microscopic tubes, but some researchers are skeptical

Edyta Zielinska
Feb 16, 2011
Evidence for the first ever nanotubes that allow inter-species transfer of macromolecules as big as green fluorescent protein (GFP) was reported today (February 17) in __Cell,__ suggesting a new mechanism of bacterial communication in biofilms with implications on how antibiotic resistance spreads. However, many in the community are holding out for more evidence. "I think it's going to create a sensation," said microbiologist linkurl:Richard Losick;http://www.mcb.harvard.edu/Losick/Research/ from Harvard University, who was not involved in the research. "It's really so surprising." There are other examples of tube-like structures between cells, such as the well-studied plasmodesmata that allow transport between cells in some plant species, as well as recently discovered nanotubes in linkurl:mammalian cells;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2818746 that transfer vesicles and organelles. But this is the first evidence that bacteria may also have such nanotubule structures, and the first time such tubes have been suggested to transfer molecules between different species.
Scanning electron micrographs of __B....
Bacillus subtilisG. P. Dubey and S. Ben-Yehuda, "Intercellular Nanotubes Mediate Bacterial Communication," Cell, 144:590-600, 2011. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.01.015
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