D-trich, the spirochetes in your intestines and the ponies on the floor.

In the figure below (on the left) is an electron micrograph of the  Deltatrichonympha a protist that lives in the guts of termites.  Those little hairs on its surface aren’t hairs at all but leetle bacteria that have embedded themselves in D-trich’s plasma membrane and help move that big eukaryotic cell around in the termite’s bowels.


Specifically these bacteria belong to the Spirochete Family, and in the middle panel is a transmission EM picture showing how the bacteria burrow into the plasma membrane of D-trich.  The paper I took this from was published by Lynn Marguilis, a visionary biologist who gave us the Endosymbiotic Theory of Eukaryotic evolution.  In this paper they were showing how these spirochetes form structures which could be seen to resemble microtubule organizing centers, the evolution of which allowed for mitosis (cliff notes – mitosis was stolen from Bacteria) and cilia (cliff notes – the mucociliary escalator was stolen from Bacteria).  Very cool stuff to think about.

Below is another picture from a paper I read right after that and gave to my students to show them that there are spirochete infections in humans that were discovered by van Leeuvenhoek in the 17th century (so, kind of at the begining of modern science) that we still can’t decide if the spirochetes are normal residents or parasites of our intestines.  (run-on sentence much?).

See how those Spirochetes appear to be burrowed in to that intestinal epithelial cell?  I am not saying this similarity is meaningful, just that its kind of cool


The second paper is from a German medical journal.  10,000 extra credit points if you can see the pun.

It had something to do with "being at the beach"

It had something to do with “being at the beach”

Must log off now to figure out why my daughter is spreading blocks, My Little Pony figurines and toy horses all over the reading room floor in what appears to be a deliberate pattern.

Appallingly formatted references

Andrew M. Wier, Luciano Sacchi Michael F. Dolan, Claudio Bandi, James Macallister, and Lynn Margulis  “Spirochete Attachment Ultrastructure: Implications for the Origin and Evolution of Cilia” Biol Bull February 2010 218:25-35

Efstathia Tsinganou and Jan-Olaf Gebbers. “Human Intestinal Spirochetosis – a review.” German Medical Science. Jan 7, 2010


About SubOptimist

I am an Associate Professor in the Science Department at Georgia Perimeter College, Clarkston. I teach introductory biology courses at both the majors and non-majors level in addition to microbiology. Previous to that I spent 7 years as a postdoctoral researcher on different viruses. While I don't miss being on the "grant treadmill", I think better when I write and miss writing up data for papers and grants; this blog helps me with that a little. And sometimes my kids' insanely funny and cute antics need to be shared with the world. Any view expressed in this blog is that of me personally and not Georgia Perimeter College or the GPC Clarkston Science Department.
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