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Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Bacteria can Chill Out too!

I'm excited, I just found a new use of friendly bacteria I didn't know about!

Pseudomonas syringae is a pretty nasty plant pathogen. In fact, a lot of my reading for my project involves inhibiting or otherwise deterring it from infecting plants. But even a common disease causer like this can have its uses!

Because bacteria are so tiny, they can interact with things much smaller than we can. For example; water! Clouds are full of bacteria (see this blog post for more details) condensing water vapour together, but that's not all they can do. P. syringae can freeze water! Only a few degrees above normal freezing point, but a few degrees can make a huge difference (just look at the climate change stats!). This cool paper shows how they do it; they use proteins to move the water into structured arrangements which encourages freezing.

Why does this make them 'friendly' though? Well, they're used extensively in making artificial snow slopes! I had no idea about this, it's pretty awesome.

It's not just Pseudomonas that can make snowmen!

On the less friendly side of things, it also is bad news for plants; not only does P. syringae cause disease but it increases the likelihood of frost damage too. Which just goes to show; while bacteria may cause adverse affects in certain conditions, in others they can be really handy!

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