One genetic transformation turns friendly bacteria into assassins
Glow-in-the-dark bacteria living in nematode worms flip a genetic switch to change from peaceful cohabitants into killers.
The M-form (M for mutualism) of Photorhabdus luminescens bacteria make friendly colonies inside nematodes. But the microbes switch to the deadly toxin-producing P-form (P for pathogenic) when their hosts are ready to eat an insect from the inside out. Worms vomit up the bacteria into insects, and the bacterial toxins kill and help digest the feast.
Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.