Gary Dorken

The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, SCT, United Kingdom

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Publications (3)16.42 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: In bacteria, the production of exopolysaccharides-polysaccharides secreted by the cells into their growth medium-is integral to the formation of aggregates and biofilms. These exopolysaccharides often form part of a matrix that holds the cells together. Investigating the bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti, we found that a mutant that overproduces the exopolysaccharide succinoglycan showed enhanced aggregation, resulting in phase separation of the cultures. However, the aggregates did not appear to be covered in polysaccharides. Succinoglycan purified from cultures was applied to different concentrations of cells, and observation of the phase behaviour showed that the limiting polymer concentration for aggregation and phase separation to occur decreased with increasing cell concentration, suggesting a 'crowding mechanism' was occurring. We suggest that, as found in colloidal dispersions, the presence of a non-adsorbing polymer in the form of the exopolysaccharide succinoglycan drives aggregation of S. meliloti by depletion attraction. This force leads to self-organization of the bacteria into small clusters of laterally aligned cells, and, furthermore, leads to aggregates clustering into biofilm-like structures on a surface.
    Journal of The Royal Society Interface 08/2012; 9(77):3490-502. · 4.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We study phase separation in suspensions of two unrelated species of rod-like bacteria, Escherichia coli and Sinorhizobium meliloti, induced by the addition of two different anionic polyelectrolytes, sodium polystyrene sulfonate or succinoglycan, the former being synthetic and the latter of natural origin. Comparison with the known behaviour of synthetic colloid-polymer mixtures and with simulations show that "depletion" (or, equivalently, "macromolecular crowding") is the dominant mechanism: exclusion of the non-adsorbing polymer from the region between two neighbouring bacteria creates an unbalanced osmotic force pushing them together. The implications of our results for understanding phenomena such as biofilm formation are discussed.
    EPL (Europhysics Letters) 01/2010; · 2.26 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This work investigated the roles of beta-amylases in the breakdown of leaf starch. Of the nine beta-amylase (BAM)-like proteins encoded in the Arabidopsis thaliana genome, at least four (BAM1, -2, -3, and -4) are chloroplastic. When expressed as recombinant proteins in Escherichia coli, BAM1, BAM2, and BAM3 had measurable beta-amylase activity but BAM4 did not. BAM4 has multiple amino acid substitutions relative to characterized beta-amylases, including one of the two catalytic residues. Modeling predicts major differences between the glucan binding site of BAM4 and those of active beta-amylases. Thus, BAM4 probably lost its catalytic capacity during evolution. Total beta-amylase activity was reduced in leaves of bam1 and bam3 mutants but not in bam2 and bam4 mutants. The bam3 mutant had elevated starch levels and lower nighttime maltose levels than the wild type, whereas bam1 did not. However, the bam1 bam3 double mutant had a more severe phenotype than bam3, suggesting functional overlap between the two proteins. Surprisingly, bam4 mutants had elevated starch levels. Introduction of the bam4 mutation into the bam3 and bam1 bam3 backgrounds further elevated the starch levels in both cases. These data suggest that BAM4 facilitates or regulates starch breakdown and operates independently of BAM1 and BAM3. Together, our findings are consistent with the proposal that beta-amylase is a major enzyme of starch breakdown in leaves, but they reveal unexpected complexity in terms of the specialization of protein function.
    The Plant Cell 05/2008; 20(4):1040-58. · 9.25 Impact Factor