For many years, bacteria have been considered very simple organisms mostly studied in the context of single cells. However, recent discoveries revealed the ability of bacteria to develop complex communities. The study of bacterial communities is of biomedical and ecological importance as the formation of highly organized multicellular structures such as biofilms and fruiting bodies render infectious bacteria resistant to antibiotics and are very difficult to treat. Essential for biofilm and fruiting body formation is the ability of bacterial cells to communicate with each other. Recent observations on the model system Myxococcus xanthus suggest the existence of a previously undiscovered mechanism of bacterial cell-cell communication. Very likely, M. xanthus shares its way of cell-cell communication with other bacterial species also forming multicellular structures, including human pathogens. The proposed study will i) focus on the investigation of the mechanisms responsible of cell-cell communications; ii) take advantage of innovative techniques and integrate genetic, biochemical and cellular approaches; iii) open new insights in the knowledge of bacterial multicellularity.
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