Now, using advanced technologies to explore the inner workings of bacteria in unprecedented detail, biologists at the University of California San Diego have discovered that in fact bacteria have more in common with sophisticated human cells than previously known.
Publishing their work June 13 in the journal Cell, UC San Diego researchers working in Professor Joe Pogliano's and Assistant Professor Elizabeth Villa's laboratories have provided the first example of cargo within bacterial cells transiting along treadmill-like structures in a process similar to that occurring in our own cells.
"It's not that bacteria are boring, but previously we did not have a very good ability to look at them in detail," said Villa, one of the paper's corresponding authors.
Study first-author Vorrapon Chaikeeratisak of UC San Diego's Division of Biological Sciences and his colleagues analyzed giant Pseudomonas bacteriophage (also known as phage, the term used to describe viruses that infect bacterial cells).
Earlier insights from Pogliano's and Villa's labs found that phage convert the cells they have infected into mammalian-type cells with a centrally located nucleus-like structure, formed by a protein shell surrounding the replicated phage DNA.
"The way this giant phage replicates inside bacteria is so fascinating," said Chaikeeratisak.