Thursday, May 19, 2016

Communication Systems in Bacteria

Since all cells contain communication feedback control systems, it's not surprising that bacteria also have such systems. What is surprising is that there is intercellular communication which is accomplished with molecular words in a similar fashion. There are two levels of intercellular communication which are introduced in this TED Talk video, which culminate in a surprising benefit. Science done right is a thing of beauty.

I will note that the accompanying transcript text was helpful - she spoke very rapidly, and the word "quorum" (one example) was not obvious as spoken in the video.

I do take issue with one point. The communications systems were said to have been developed by the cells in deep time in which single cells existed as the sole life. There is no evidence that the original single cell prokaryote did not have this capability from the start, even though it was not useful until after the first mitosis. The fundamental complexity necessary in the first cell already included such molecular communication systems that crossed membranes (e.g., ATP metabolic stabilization), so the invention was already complete, right there in First Life. Cross-membrane was not novel after First Life.

And if, as the speaker indicates, these systems actually are the necessary and sufficient precursors to multicellular life (a non-falsifiable claim), that goes only so far because there is no provision for the creation of the many interdependent organs, nor the morphological structures which accompany the creative blast of all the phyla at the time of the Cambrian Explosion.

But these are minor quibbles about a remarkable set of discoveries and subsequent inventions.

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