Editors' ChoiceMicrobiology

Know Thyself

Science Signaling  15 Jul 2008:
Vol. 1, Issue 28, pp. ec258
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.128ec258

Cells of the pathogenic bacterium Proteus mirabilis clump together to form colonies that, on meeting other colonies, can distinguish self from foreigners. Proteus detects, then deters, interlopers of the same species using polypeptide weapons called proticines. Gibbs et al. investigated the genetic basis of this self-non-self recognition system in Proteus and discovered a locus of six genes that seem to constitute general and specific recognition determinants, as well as accessory genes. Within infected hosts, P. mirabilis infections are usually clonal, so this recognition system could be a way for an established clone to prevent superinfection by another clone and to avoid competition.

K. A. Gibbs, M. L. Urbanowski, E. P. Greenberg, Genetic determinants of self identity and social recognition in bacteria. Science 321, 256-259 (2008). [Abstract] [Full Text]