It’s a dog eat dog world, and bacteria have been living in it for a long time. It’s of no surprise that bacteria have a sophisticated arsenal to compete with each other for valuable resources in the environment. In 2010, work led by University of Washington Department of Microbiology Associate Professor Joseph Mougous uncovered a weaponry system used in this warfare between bacteria. The combatants inject deadly toxins into rival cells.
This is a tick resting on a blade of grass. Some species of ticks are among the many animals that have incorporated bacterial toxin genes into their genomes.
Credit: Matt Pinski/University of Washington
The research published was funded by the National Institute of Health (AI080609, AI083640), the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (HDTRA-1-13-014), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/I020012/1), with additional support from Howard Hughes Medical Institute.