In vitro single-cell dissection revealing the interior structure of cable bacteria

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  • Zaixing Jiang, Harbin Inst Technol, Harbin Institute of Technology, Sch Chem Engn & Technol, Dept Polymer Sci & Technol
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  • Shuai Zhang, Pacific Northwest Natl Lab, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, United States Department of Energy (DOE), Phys & Computat Sci Directorate, Phys Sci Div
  • ,
  • Lasse Hyldgaard Klausen
  • Jie Song, Shanghai Jiao Tong Univ, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Dept Instrument Sci & Engn, Shanghai Engn Res Ctr Intelligent Diag & Treatmen, Inst Nano Biomed & Engn
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  • Qiang Li, Shandong Univ, Shandong University, Sch Chem & Chem Engn
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  • Zegao Wang
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  • Bjorn Torger Stokke, Norwegian Univ Sci & Technol NTNU, Norwegian University of Science & Technology (NTNU), Dept Phys, Biophys & Med Technol
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  • Yudong Huang, Harbin Inst Technol, Harbin Institute of Technology, Sch Chem Engn & Technol, Dept Polymer Sci & Technol
  • ,
  • Flemming Besenbacher
  • Lars Peter Nielsen
  • Mingdong Dong

Filamentous Desulfobulbaceae bacteria were recently discovered as long-range transporters of electrons from sulfide to oxygen in marine sediments. The long-range electron transfer through these cable bacteria has created considerable interests, but it has also raised many questions, such as what structural basis will be required to enable micrometer-sized cells to build into centimeter-long continuous filaments? Here we dissected cable bacteria cells in vitro by atomic force microscopy and further explored the interior, which is normally hidden behind the outer membrane. Using nanoscale topographical and mechanical maps, different types of bacterial cell-cell junctions and strings along the cable length were identified. More important, these strings were found to be continuous along the bacterial cells passing through the cell-cell junctions. This indicates that the strings serve an important function in maintaining integrity of individual cable bacteria cells as a united filament. Furthermore, ridges in the outer membrane are found to envelop the individual strings at cell-cell junctions, and they are proposed to strengthen the junctions. Finally, we propose a model for the division and growth of the cable bacteria, which illustrate the possible structural requirements for the formation of centimeter-length filaments in the recently discovered cable bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Pages (from-to)8517-8522
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2018

    Research areas

  • cable bacteria, atomic force microscopy, dissection, interior structure, ATOMIC-FORCE MICROSCOPY, ELECTRIC-CURRENTS, NATIVE MEMBRANES, MARINE SEDIMENT, AFM, NANOSCALE

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