Human gut bacteria have sex to share vitamin B12


Illustration of bacteria in the human gut. Credit: Daryl Lega, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health

Your gut bacteria need vitamin B12 just as much as they do. Although DNA is usually passed from parent to child, new research shows that gut bacteria transfer genes through “sex” in order to take vitamins.

Without vitamin B12, most types of living cells cannot function. As a result, there is strong competition for it in nature. A new study at the University of California, Riverside shows that beneficial gut microbes share the ability to gain this precious resource with one another through a process called bacterial sex.

“The process involves one cell forming a tube that the DNA can pass to another cell,” said microbiologist and study leader Patrick Degnan. “It’s as if two people are having sex, and now they are both having sex Red hair. “

Scientists have known about this process for decades, and its ability to transmit what are known as “jumping genes” between organisms. So far, the majority of the examples studied have been responsible for helping bacterial cells survive when antibiotics are taken.

“We are excited about this study because it shows that this process is not just for antibiotic resistance. Horizontal gene exchange between microbes could potentially be used for anything that increases their ability to survive, including the participation of vitamin B12.”

The results of the study were published in the journal cell reports.

Previously, Deignan worked on a project in which he and colleagues identified an important transporter responsible for the introduction of vitamin B12 into the gut microbial. cells. More recently, he has been studying jump genes, trying to determine what types of information they transmit. Deignan soon learned that the vitamin B12 transporters were the charge.

To prove what they suspect, Dignan and his team get mixed up bacteria It can transfer B12 and some can’t. Being on a plate together gave the bacteria a chance to form a tube called a sex pill that facilitates the transfer process. Next, they determined that the bacteria that were previously unable to transfer vitamin B12 were all still alive and acquired genes that had the ability to transfer vitamin B12.

They did a second experiment examining the entire genome of the bacteria.

“In a particular organism, we could see clusters of DNA that looked like fingerprints. B12 vector recipients had an extra strand showing the new DNA they got from a donor,” Degnan said.

The experiment was not only successful in test tubes, but also inside mice.

Beneficiary type gut bacteria Used in the study are Bacteroides, which are found in the large intestine of most people. One of their most important services to humans is to break down complex carbohydrates for energy.

“Long large particles of sweet potatoAnd beans, whole grains, and vegetables pass through our bodies completely without these bacteria. “They split those things up so we get energy from them,” Deignan explained.

Bacteria, along with other bacteria, give our guts a barrier layer that can help prevent pathogens from invading. For example, previous research led by co-author Ansel Hsiao, also at UC Riverside, shows that some humans have communities of microbes in their gut that make them more resistant to cholera.

Learning how to keep these bacteria healthy can also help benefit people, given the important services they perform.

“There is no one way to get a file healthy microbiomeBut overall, having a diverse community of anaerobic bacteria is healthy and can have beneficial effects.”

Scientists describe previously unknown gut reactions

more information:
Katie A. Frey et al, Mobilization of vitamin B12 transporters alters competitive dynamics in the human gut microbiome, cell reports (2021). DOI: 10.1016 / j.celrep.2021.110164

the quote: Human Gut Bacteria Have Sex to Share Vitamin B12 (2022, Feb. 1), Retrieved Feb. 1, 2022 from

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