The secret of the “bacterium of the desert” lock onto the water cycle

The “bacteria in the desert” has adapted its own cycle for stalling on the water: at the end of the night when the dew appears, it is ready to metamorphose to enjoy it. This, according to a recent study, the secret of his survival in the desert of southern Tunisia.

Learn more about the bacteria of the desert, their diversity, tolerance mechanisms to water shortage, could lead to applications in biotechnology and new antibiotics, says Thierry Heulin (CEA / CNRS / Université Aix-Marseille, France) who participated the analysis of the genome of Ramlibacter tataouinensis.

The bacterium of the desert, which was discovered near Tataouine (Tunisia), may be in the form of cysts or sticks still able to move.

During the day when the sand is dry and hot it is in the form of cyst, well protected by an outer layer – a polymer which prevents dehydration.

This polymer would be “the physical and chemical properties quite original: when there is water on the outside, it enters the bacterium, when there is not outside, the water does not come of the bacteria, “he told AFP M. Heulin.

In late night, when the time approaches the dew has a chance to appear, the bacteria is prepared. If water is present, it has three hours to complete one cell division. The two bacteria that are derived can be directly in the form of cysts, or the form of rods that can spread further.

“A cyst that is divided, without going through the point stick, it had never been demonstrated,” said the researcher. He sees a unique way to cope when “the window where water is available is very short.”

The water cycle, the bacteria would use the desert, in a roundabout way, the gene KIAC, already known in bacteria use photosynthesis like plants. It allows these bacteria to calibrate the pace of that of the sun.

The study was published Sept. 2 by the journal PLoS One online.

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