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Marine Tubeworm Metamorphosis Induced by Arrays of Bacterial Phage Tail–Like Structures

Science  09 Jan 2014:

DOI: 10.1126/science.1246794

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Abstract

Many benthic marine animal populations are established and maintained by free-swimming larvae that recognize cues from surface-bound bacteria to settle and metamorphose. Larvae of the tubeworm Hydroides elegans, a significant biofouling agent, require contact with surface-bound bacteria to undergo metamorphosis; however, the mechanisms that underpin this microbially mediated developmental transition have been enigmatic. Here, we show that a marine bacterium, Pseudoalteromonas luteoviolacea, produces arrays of phage tail–like structures that trigger metamorphosis of H. elegans. These arrays comprise about 100 contractile structures with outward-facing baseplates, linked by tail fibers and a dynamic hexagonal net. Not only do these arrays suggest a novel form of bacterium-animal interaction, they provide an entry point to understanding how marine biofilms can trigger animal development.

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