Worms "Farm" Bacteria
In a paper recently published February 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a Princeton team demonstrated that roundworms—specifically, the laboratory workhorse, Caenorhabditis elegans—carry with them bacteria—Escherichia coli—as they tunnels through the soil in which the worms and bacteria both naturally dwell. Along the way, the worms “drop” bacteria like breadcrumbs or seeds—seeds which subsequently grow into thriving colonies of E. coli that the worms later return to "harvest" and eat. Spearheaded by Postdoctoral Research Associates Shashi Thutupalli and Sravanthi Uppaluri, the research team also included Clifford Brangwynne, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE), and Howard Stone, Professor and Chair of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Associated Faculty in CBE. The authors went on to explore several aspects of this interspecies relationship, which was previously unrecognized despite the ubiquity of both C. elegans and E. coli as model organisms for laboratory research. For more information, see the story on the Princeton University homepage. Those with journal access can access the full PNAS article, “Farming and Public Goods Production in Caenorhabditis elegans Populations”.