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Formulations and the bacterial raincoat

Water droplets sitting on a water-repellent bacterial biofilm

15 May 2015

SCI is pleased to bring you news from our collaborative partner, The Royal Society, on an upcoming discussion meeting that may be of interest to SCI members.

Fresh insights into how bacteria protect themselves – by forming a waterproof raincoat – could help develop improved products to protect plants from disease.

Researchers have discovered how communities of beneficial bacteria form a waterproof coating on the roots of plants, to protect them from microbes that could potentially cause plant disease. Their insights could lead to ways to control this shield and improve its efficiency, which could help curb the risk of unwanted infections in agricultural or garden plants, the team says.

Scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee studied the protective film formed by the common soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis. They found it incorporates proteins that change shape as they reach the film surface. This exposes an impervious surface on the protein molecules, enabling them to slot together like a jigsaw puzzle, to protect bacteria underneath. The film is able to repel water – which means other potentially harmful molecules also bounce off. Researchers say that being able to control the production of the biofilm in agricultural products could enable improved protection for plants.

Prof Cait MacPhee, who led this team, is one of the speakers at the forthcoming Royal Society discussion meeting - Soft interfacial materials: from fundamentals to formulation. She features alongside speakers from industry (Nestle, Syngenta and Unilever), applications labs (CSIRO and INRA) and universities in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Switzerland, USA and UK.

The discussion meeting takes place in London on 12 and 13 October. Registration is free, but places are limited. The poster abstract submission deadline is 31 July. Further information is available via the link below.

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