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Evidence of ‘nanobacteria’ at the low size limit of life

This cryo-electron tomography image reveals the internal structure of an ultra-small bacteria cell like never before This cryo-electron tomography image reveals the internal structure of an ultra-small bacteria cell like never before. The cell has a very dense interior compartment and a complex cell wall. The darker spots at each end of the cell are most likely ribosomes. The image was obtained from a 3D reconstruction. The scale bar is 100 nanometers. (credit: Berkeley Lab)

Ultra-small bacteria believed to be about as tiny as life can get, have been captured in these microscopic images.

The existence of ultra-small bacteria (aka “nanobacteria” or “nannobacteria”) has been debated for two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive electron microscopy and DNA-based description of the microbes until now.

They are about 200 nanometers (.2 micrometers) in width with a volume of only about 0.009 cubic nanomicrons (millionth of a meter). About 150 of these bacteria could fit inside an Escherichia coli bacteria cell.

The diverse bacteria were found in groundwater and are thought to be quite common. This is the smallest a cell can be and still accommodate enough material to sustain life, the researchers say.

Bacteria-with-pili Berkeley Lab

Numerous hairlike appendages radiating from the surface of this ultra-small bacteria cell could enable the cell to connect with other microbes and obtain life-giving resources. The scale bar is 100 nanometers. Berkley Lab

The bacterial cells have densely packed spirals that are probably DNA, a very small number of ribosomes, hair-like appendages, and a stripped-down metabolism that likely requires them to rely on other bacteria for many of life’s necessities.

Read the complete article on KurzweilAI.net

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