5. Bacteria

Reproduction and transformation

Bacteria may reproduce and change using the following methods:

  • Binary fission: An asexual form of reproduction, in which a cell continues to grow until a new cell wall grows through the center, forming two cells. These separate, making two cells with the same genetic material.
  • Transfer of genetic material: Cells acquire new genetic material through processes known as conjugation, transformation, or transduction. These processes can make bacteria stronger and more able to resist threats, such as antibiotic medication.
  • Spores: When some types of bacteria are low on resources, they can form spores. Spores hold the organism’s DNA material and contain the enzymes needed for germination. They are very resistant to environmental stresses. The spores can remain inactive for centuries, until the right conditions occur. Then they can reactivate and become bacteria.
  • Spores can survive through periods of environmental stress, including ultraviolet (UV) and gamma radiation, desiccation, starvation, chemical exposure, and extremes of temperature.

Some bacteria produce endospores, or internal spores, while others produce exospores, which are released outside. These are known as cysts.

Clostridium is an example of an endospore-forming bacterium. There are about 100 species of Clostridium, including Clostridium botulinim (C. botulinim) or botulism, responsible for a potentially fatal kind of food poisoning, and Clostridium difficile (C. Difficile), which causes colitis and other intestinal problems.

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