Research ArticleMICROBIOLOGY

Real-time tracking of bacterial membrane vesicles reveals enhanced membrane traffic upon antibiotic exposure

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Science Advances  20 Jan 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 4, eabd1033
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd1033

Abstract

Membrane vesicles are ubiquitous carriers of molecular information. A broad understanding of the biological functions of membrane vesicles in bacteria remains elusive because of the imaging challenges during real-time in vivo experiments. Here, we provide a quantitative analysis of the motion of individual vesicles in living microbes using fluorescence microscopy, and we show that while vesicle free diffusion in the intercellular space is rare, vesicles mostly disperse along the bacterial surfaces. Most remarkably, when bacteria are challenged with low doses of antibiotics, vesicle production and traffic, quantified by instantaneous vesicle speeds and total traveled distance per unit time, are significantly enhanced. Furthermore, the enhanced vesicle movement is independent of cell clustering properties but rather is associated with a reduction of the density of surface appendages in response to antibiotics. Together, our results provide insights into the emerging field of spatial organization and dynamics of membrane vesicles in microcolonies.

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