Biocurious is a weblog about biology, quantified.

Single Molecule Gene Expression Movie Update

by Andre on 25 March 2006

Seed has some movies from the Xie group showing their bacteria multiplying and flashing. Each burst of photons is from a single fluorescent protein folding into its functional state. They subsequently vanish due to photobleaching.

This brings me to my somewhat related thought of the day. Consider the thousands of cultures of bacteria that scientists study in labs around the world. The scientists are looking for “interesting” behaviour in their cultures and the bacteria are trying to survive. Those bacteria that fit the criteria for interesting are cultured more frequently and also dispersed around the world to other labs that also want to culture them. So, in a way, bacteria that evolve more interesting behaviours are actually evolving the ability to modify the behaviour of the scientists that they rely on to survive. It’s almost like Carl Zimmer’s fascinating discussion of behaviour modifying parasites, but in a less direct and creapy kind of way.



  1. MT    4019 days ago    #

    Also like some other guy’s theory that all of us humans are just the pawns of wheat and rice.


  2. MT    4019 days ago    #

    “Interesting” seems like a stretch in regard to the bacteria with the flashes. More like somewhat nifty, if unsurprising. Or am I missing something?


  3. PhilipJ    4019 days ago    #

    The point is not that bacteria make proteins that fold into functional states, it is that humans are now able to watch it happening at an individual protein level. If you are keen on things like gene circuitry, being able to reliably measure copy number is really important. It is also nice that you can do this in a living system, so you can start changing the environment the cell is in (say, by poking it with an AFM tip, or trapping it in an optical trap) and determine real-time response of gene expression. This kind of stuff just wasn’t possible before, so it is more of a technological advancement right now, but I suspect we’ll learn some neat stuff with it.


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