PerspectiveMicrobiology

Tracing cell trajectories in a biofilm

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Science  03 Jul 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6499, pp. 30-31
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd1225

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Summary

Born in 1881 on a farm in Pennsylvania, Alice C. Evans dedicated her life to studying bacteria in dairy products. Early in her career, Alice became convinced that most bacteria display multicellular behavior as part of their life cycles. At the time, the morphological changes observed in bacterial life cycles created confusion among scientists. In 1928, as the first female president of the American Society for Microbiology, Alice wrote to the scientific community: “When one-celled organisms grow in masses, … individual cells influence and protect one another.” She continued, “Bacteriologists need not feel chagrinned … to admit that… forms they have considered as different genera are but stages in the life cycle of one species” (1). Nearly 100 years later, on page 71 of this issue, Qin et al. (2) make a substantial leap forward in deciphering cell dynamics in biofilms—groups of microorganisms that adhere to a surface, and each other, by excreting matrix components.

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