Bacteria can communicate by sending molecules to each other along nanotube bridges. Researchers previously thought that bacteria exchanged molecules primarily by secreting and sensing them.
Gyanendra Dubey and Sigal Ben-Yehuda at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel observed tubular protrusions between neighbouring Bacillus subtilis cells (pictured) and showed that they are used to exchange molecules and proteins. The nanotubes, which are typical of multicellular organisms, also form between B. subtilis and other bacterial species.
The bridging mechanism can transfer features such as antibiotic resistance between cells, the authors say.
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Molecular mail by nanotube. Nature 470, 438 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/470438c