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Nanoparticles can translate chemical signals from bacteria to yeast

Particles that facilitate communication from one type of cell to another could have applications in medicine and agriculture

Life 28 February 2022

E. coli bacterium. Coloured transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of an Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacterium in the early stages of binary fission, the process by which the bacterium divides. This Gram-negative bacillus (rod-shaped) bacterium normally inhabits the human intestines. Under certain conditions it may undergo rapid division, which increases its numbers to such an extent that it causes infection. E. coli cause 80% of all urinary tract infections, travellers' diarrhoea and gastroenteritis in children. The hair-like appendages around the bacterium are pili, structures used for bacterial conjugation. Magnification: x17,500 at 6x7cm size.

Electron microscope image of an E. coli cell dividing


Specially designed nanoparticles have been used to let bacteria communicate with yeast cells by “translating” chemical messages from one form to another. It is the first time that cells from different kingdoms of life have interacted in this way, and the concept could be used in fields ranging from medicine to agriculture.

Antoni Llopis Lorente at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands and his colleagues engineered a particle that can process a chemical signal from an E. coli cell, a …