Do bacteria have bacteria?


We know that bacteria range in size from 0.2 µm to nearly a mm. That’s more than a thousand-fold difference, easily enough to accommodate a small bacterium inside a larger one.

Nothing forbids bacteria from invading other bacteria, and in biology, that which is not forbidden is inevitable.

We have at least one example. Like many mealybugs, Planococcus citri has a bacterial endosymbiont, in this case the β-proteobacterium Tremblaya princeps. And this endosymbiont in turn has the γ-proteobacterium Moranella endobia living inside it. See for yourself:

Fluorescent In-Situ Hybridization confirming that intrabacterial symbionts reside inside Tremblaya cells in (A) M. hirsutus and (B) P. marginatus mealybugs. Tremblaya cells are in green, and γ-proteobacterial symbionts are in red. (Scale bar: 10 μm.)

I don’t know of examples of free-living bacteria hosting other bacteria within them, but that reflects either my ignorance or the likelihood that we haven’t looked hard enough for them. I’m sure they are out there.

Most (not all) scientists studying the origin of eukaryotic cells believe that they are descended from Archaea. All scientists accept that the mitochondria which live inside eukaryotic cells are descendants of invasive alpha-proteobacteria. What’s not clear is whether archeal cells became eukaryotic in nature - that is, acquired internal membranes and transport systems - before or after acquiring mitochondria. The two scenarios can be sketched out like this:

The two hypotheses on the origin of eukaryotes.

(A) Archaezoan hypothesis. (B) Symbiotic hypothesis. The shapes within the eukaryotic cell denote the nucleus, the endomembrane system, and the cytoskeleton. The irregular gray shape denotes a putative wall-less archaeon that could have been the host of the alpha-proteobacterial endosymbiont, whereas the oblong red shape denotes a typical archaeon with a cell wall. A: archaea; B: bacteria; E: eukaryote; LUCA: last universal common ancestor of cellular life-forms; LECA: last eukaryotic common ancestor; E-arch: putative archaezoan (primitive amitochondrial eukaryote); E-mit: primitive mitochondrial eukaryote; alpha:alpha-proteobacterium, ancestor of the mitochondrion.

The Archaezoan hypothesis has been given a bit of a boost by the discovery of Lokiarcheota. This complex Archaean has genes for phagocytosis, intracellular membrane formation and intracellular transport and signalling - hallmark activities of eukaryotic cells. The Lokiarcheotan genes are clearly related to eukaryotic genes, indicating a common origin.

Bacteria-within-bacteria is not only not a crazy idea, it probably accounts for the origin of Eucarya, and thus our own species.

We don’t know how common this arrangement is - we mostly study bacteria these days by sequencing their DNA. This is great for detecting uncultivatable species (which are 99% of them), but doesn’t tell us whether they are free-living or are some kind of symbiont. For that, someone would have to spend a lot of time prepping environmental samples for close examination by microscopic methods, a tedious project indeed. But one well worth doing, as it may shed more light on the history of life - which is often a history of conflict turned to cooperation. That’s a story which never gets old or stale.

This information was taken from Quora. Click here to view the original post.

Have you known this before? What do you think about these phenomena? Tell us in the comments below!

#Science #Quora


What are your thoughts on this subject?
Garry James
Like the old verse.... "Big fleas have little fleas Upon their backs to bite'em Little fleas have litter'l fleas And so on infinitum"
Jul 19, 2020 4:43PM
I almost failed microbiology, but loved genetics, go figure. Excellent trivia.
Jul 20, 2019 1:55AM
Richard Perkins
I made an A in microbiology.
Apr 14, 2019 10:08AM
Mike Aparo
We are analogously the symbionts of Mother Earth 🌏!
Jul 11, 2018 5:21PM
Jim McGregor
Wow very interesting
Jun 26, 2018 10:12PM
Patricia Calvert
Never realised this
Jun 25, 2018 10:25PM
Terence Bunn
Most enlightening
Jun 25, 2018 5:17PM

People also liked

Interesting Facts

Surprising facts about the human heart 6/9/2021

Before humans knew anything about biology we knew the heart was essential to the human experience. Here are six facts about this amazing organ.

Read more

#Science #health

7 amazing facts about regular household objects 6/21/2021

Our appliances and furniture may seem like not the most interesting things in our life, but once you read these 7 cool facts you'll change your opinion about some of them.

Read more

#Science #History #Society

You never knew these 8 facts were actually true! 8/7/2021

Get ready for a set of big surprises, as you definitely never expected these 8 facts to be true...

Read more

#Science #Society #Nature

4 signs you should be moving more 5/14/2021

Lack of movement can affect us in different ways and can even cause some long term harm. Check out 4 signs that you should start moving more.

Read more

#Science #health