Monday, January 25, 2010

Microbial Grappling Hooks

It's a common theme for my view of microbes: for many real-world problems, microbes have already developed a solution.

Want to turn biomass into fuel? Microbes can do it!
Want to seed clouds for rain? Microbes can do it!
Want to move around using a grappling hook? Microbes can do it!

I've had the honor of contributing a blog entry to the delightful blog "Small Things Considered" on the topic of microbial grappling hooks, known more technically as "Type IV pili." It's basically a rope or filament that is sticky at the end. The bacteria can extend this filament out of the cell, and if the sticky end catches on something the microbe can pull itself along by reeling the filament back in. This is just one of many fascinating structures bacteria can use to interact with the world around them.

If you want a little more technical detail on how Type IV pili work, check out my "Small Things Considered" blog entry on the subject!

1 comment:

  1. Amber,

    It has been a real pleasure to host you fine article on the topic in our blog. I can say good things about yours, so we have a Mutual Admiration Society in full session. I will keep reading your blog and surely will learn much from it.

    Elio Schaechter