Bacteria exchange bits of DNA like an all you can eat smorgasbord
Bacteria, after viruses which we shall discuss, are the most widespread microorganisms on Earth. They are known as ‘prokaryotes’, cells with NO nucleus which contains the ‘hereditary’ characteristics. Such cells do not have ‘sex’ and pass on their heredity characteristics to their offspring. To reproduce they simply divide in two.
But, and this is where is gets interesting,
Bacteria can and do pass on ‘bits of DNA’, called plasmids, that modify their distinctiveness.
They develop new capacities and capabilities
Let’s even say ‘powers’… because that is the appropriate word,
I’m not trying to make a bacteriologist out of you. What I would like you to understand is the magnitude of variety there are in bacteria, how this multitude has come about and especially how it is growing continuously.
Take a look at this two minute video to learn about bacteria conjugation. This is just one method or transferring DNA characteristics between bacteria.
As you watch this educational video, concentrate on the ‘F factor’ plasmid and how it gets transferred. Realize that there are other types of plasmids and specifically that their role is to carry pieces of DNA for a variety of functions. These ‘functions’, like helping bacteria adapt to an acidic or other type of environment, can be beneficial or harmful. This kind of utility includes the build up of resistance to one or multiple antibiotics. Please watch the first video
Now that you understand the basics of the transfer of functions between bacteria I would like you to take a look at this next one minute video to understand how a single function can be ADDED to existing functions. Notice the name used for this type of bacteria: HFr cell (‘high frequency of combination.’)
Here, the function or aptitude of the donor bacteria, via the piece of DNA, is transferred and INSERTED into the DNA of another recipient bacteria.
In essence a NEW STRAIN of bacteria is generated.
When we know that any bacteria can kiss, mate and transfer a ‘function’ to any other bacteria and that kiss, mate and transfer has and is going on continuously, night and day, around our world, which we now refer to as a village, then we can understand why we have two situations:
- A smorgasbord of bacteria AND
- Bacteria with a smorgasbord of functions.
This is the origin of Superbugs, bacteria with super functions. In fact the development of antibiotics is simply to keep up the combat of the development of more and more sophisticated super bacteria.
One of the interesting questions that is being asked is: How do these one celled brainless creatures know how to develop resistance to new antibiotics? Do they have some sort of an intelligence? Good questions which The Explanation will broach but we’re going to add some more complexities (made simple) to this issue when we discuss viruses in future posts. Join me, get notified and stay in the know.
If anything is unclear, or if you have questions or would like further details, let me know in the comments below.
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