July 2, 2012

Microscopy can truly be a religious experience for some of us. We get to see the beauty of life unfold before our eyes, often in a dark room with the white-noise hum of equipment, all while being humbled by the mysteries in front of us. No matter your education, your amazing research pedigree, or the fancy-shmancy technology in front of you, you still don’t know how the heck it all happens…even in the tiniest of organisms. I’ll drink a bottle of immersion oil if that doesn’t bring your ass down a peg. Today’s image is from a paper describing the identification of a microtubule-like cytoskeleton in a bacteriophage.

Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria. They are very common, found in dirt, sea water, and any place bacteria are found, and are very diverse. While bacteria are known to have cytoskeletal structures similar to our own cells, actin- or tubulin-like structures were not previously described in bacteriophages. A research group recently identified a tubulin-like protein called Phu-Z. Like the microtubules formed from tubulin in our own cells, Phu-Z assembles into filaments that surround the bacteriophage DNA and helps to position it within the infected bacterial cell. In the image above, Phu-Z is expressed in a bacterium and is able to assemble into filaments.

ResearchBlogging.orgKraemer JA, Erb ML, Waddling CA, Montabana EA, Zehr EA, Wang H, Nguyen K, Pham DS, Agard DA, & Pogliano J (2012). A Phage Tubulin Assembles Dynamic Filaments by an Atypical Mechanism to Center Viral DNA within the Host Cell. Cell, 149 (7), 1488-99 PMID: 22726436
Copyright ©2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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