How a Slime Mold Near Death Packs Bacteria to Feed the Next Generation
Published:03 Aug.2018    Source:ScienceNews

 In the final frenzy of reproduction and death, social amoebas secrete proteins that help preserve a starter kit of food for its offspring.


Dictyostelium discoideum, a type of slime mold in soil, eats bacteria. Some wild forms of this species essentially farm the microbes, passing them along in spore cases that give the next generation of amoebas the beginnings of a fine local patch of prey. Tests find that the trick to keeping the parental immune system from killing this starter crop of bacteria is a surge of proteins called lectins, researchers say in the July 27 Science.


Lectins create a different way for the amoebas to treat bacteria: as actual symbionts inside cells, instead of as prey or infections, says study coauthor Adam Kuspa, a molecular cell biologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. In a lab test of this ability, coating other bacteria with lectin derived from a plant allowed bacteria to slip inside cells from mice and survive as symbiotic residents.