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Chapter 27

BIOL 1030 Chapter 27: Chapter 27 Prokaryotes

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Biological Sciences
BIOL 1030
Scott Kevin

Chapter 27 Prokaryotes Lecture Outline Overview: They’re (Almost) Everywhere! • Prokaryotes were the earliest organisms on Earth. • Today, they still dominate the biosphere. • Their collective biomass outweighs all eukaryotes combined at least tenfold. • More prokaryotes inhabit a handful of fertile soil or the mouth or skin of a human than the total number of people who have ever lived. • Prokaryotes are wherever there is life. • They thrive in habitats that are too cold, too hot, too salty, too acidic, or too alkaline for any eukaryote. • Prokaryotes have even been discovered in rocks two miles below the surface of the Earth. • Why have these organisms dominated the biosphere since the origin of life on Earth? • Prokaryotes display diverse adaptations that allow them to inhabit many environments. • They have great genetic diversity. • Prokaryotes are classified into two domains, Bacteria and Archaea, which differ in structure, physiology and biochemistry. Concept 27.1 Structural, functional, and genetic adaptations contribute to prokaryotic success Prokaryotes are small. • Most prokaryotes are unicellular. • Some species may aggregate transiently or form true colonies, showing division of labor between specialized cell types. • Most prokaryotes have diameters in the range of 1–5 ?m, compared to 10–100 ?m for most eukaryotic cells. • The largest prokaryote discovered so far has a diameter of 750 ?m. • The most common shapes among prokaryotes are spheres (cocci), rods (bacilli), and helices. Nearly all prokaryotes have a cell wall external to the plasma membrane. • In nearly all prokaryotes, a cell wall maintains the shape of the cell, affords physical protection, and prevents the cell from bursting in a hypotonic environment. • In a hypertonic environment, most prokaryotes lose water and plasmolyze, like other walled cells. • Severe water loss inhibits the reproduction of prokaryotes, which explains why salt can be used to preserve foods. • Most bacterial cell walls contain peptidoglycan, a polymer of modified sugars cross-linked by short polypeptides. • The walls of archaea lack peptidoglycan. • The Gram stain is a valuable tool for identifying specific bacteria based on differences in their cell walls. • Gram-positive bacteria have simple cell walls with large amounts of peptidoglycans. • Gram-negative bacteria have more complex cell walls with less peptidoglycan. • An outer membrane on the cell wall of gram-negative cells contains lipopolysaccharides, carbohydrates bonded to lipids. • Among pathogenic bacteria, gram-negative species are generally more deadly than gram-positive species. • The lipopolysaccharides on the walls of gram-negative bacteria are often toxic, and the outer membrane protects the pathogens from the defenses of their hosts. • Gram-negative bacteria are commonly more resistant than gram-positive species to antibiotics because the outer membrane impedes entry of the drugs. • Many antibiotics, including penicillin, inhibit the synthesis of cross- links in peptidoglycans, preventing the formation of a functional wall, especially in gram-positive species. • These drugs cripple many species of bacteria, without affecting human and other eukaryote cells that do not synthesize peptidoglycans. • Many prokaryotes secrete another sticky protective layer of polysaccharide or protein, the capsule, outside the cell wall. • Capsules allow cells to adhere to their substratum. • They may increase resistance to host defenses. • They glue together the cells of those prokaryotes that live as colonies. • Another way for prokaryotes to adhere to one another or to the substratum is by surface appendages called fimbriae and pili. • Fimbriae are usually more numerous and shorter than pili. • These structures can fasten pathogenic bacteria to the mucous membranes of the host. • Sex pili are specialized for holding two prokaryote cells together long enough to transfer DNA during conjugation. Many prokaryotes are motile. • About half of all prokaryotes are capable of directional movement. • Some species can move at speeds exceeding 50 ?m/sec, about 100 times their body length per second. • The beating of flagella scattered over the entire surface or concentrated at one or both ends is the most common method of movement. • The flagella of prokaryotes differ in structure and function from those of eukaryotes. • In a heterogeneous environment, many prokaryotes are capable of taxis, movement toward or away from a stimulus. • Prokaryotes that exhibit chemotaxis respond to chemicals by changing their movement patterns. • Solitary E. coli may exhibit positive chemotaxis toward other members of their species, enabling the formation of colonies. The cellular and genomic organization of prokaryotes is fundamentally different from that of eukaryotes. • The cells of prokaryotes are simpler than those of eukaryotes in both internal structure and genomic organization. • Prokaryotic cells lack the complex compartmentalization found in eukaryotic cells. • Instead, prokaryotes use specialized infolded regions of the plasma membrane to perform many metabolic functions, including cellular respiration and photosynthesis. • Prokaryotes have smaller, simpler genomes than eukaryotes. • On average, a prokaryote has only about one-thousandth as much DNA as a eukaryote. • In the majority of prokaryotes, the genome consists of a ring of DNA with few associated proteins. • The prokaryotic chromosome is located in the nucleoid region. • Prokaryotes may also have smaller rings of DNA called plasmids, which consist of only a few genes. • Prokaryotes can survive in most environments without their plasmids because their chromosomes program all essential functions. • Plasmid genes provide resistance to antibiotics, direct metabolism of unusual nutrients, and other special contingency functions. • Plasmids replicate independently of the chromosome and can be transferred between partners during conjugation. • Although the general processes for DNA replication and translation of mRNA into proteins are fundamentally alike in eukaryotes and prokaryotes, some of the details differ. • For example, prokaryotic ribosomes are slightly smaller than the eukaryotic version and differ in protein and RNA content. • These differences are great enough that selective antibiotics, including tetracycline and erythromycin, bind to prokaryotic ribosomes to block protein synthesis in prokaryotes but not in eukaryotes. Populations of prokaryotes grow and adapt rapidly. • Prokaryotes have the potential to reproduce quickly in a favorable environment. • Prokaryotes reproduce asexually via binary fission, synthesizing DNA almost continuously. • While most prokaryotes have generation times of 1–3 hours, some species can produce a new generation in 20 minutes under optimal conditions. • A single cell in favorable conditions will produce a large colony of offspring very quickly. • Of course, prokaryotic reproduction is limited because cells eventually exhaust their nutrient supply, accumulate metabolic wastes, or are consumed by other organisms. • Some bacteria form resistant cells called endospores when an essential nutrient is lacking in the environment. • A cell replicates its chromosome and surrounds one chromosome with a durable wall to form the endospore. • The original cell then disintegrates to leave the endospore behind. • An endospore is resistant to all sorts of trauma. • Endospores can survive lack of nutrients and water, extreme heat or cold, and most poisons. • Most endospores can survive in boiling water. • Endospores may be dormant for centuries or more. • When the environment becomes more hospitable, the endospore absorbs water and resumes growth. • Sterilization in an autoclave kills endospores by heating them to 120°C under high pressure. • Lacking meiotic sex, mutation is the major source of genetic variation in prokaryotes. • With generation times of minutes or hours, prokaryotic populations can adapt very rapidly to environmental changes as natural selection favors gene mutations that confer greater fitness. • As a consequence, prokaryotes are important model organisms for scientists who study evolution in the laboratory. • Richard Lenski and his colleagues have maintained colonies of E. coli through more than 20,000 generations since 1988. • The researchers regularly freeze samples of the colonies and later thaw them to compare their characteristics to those of their descendents. • Such comparisons have revealed that the colonies in Lenski’s laboratory can grow 60% faster than those that were frozen in 1988. • Lenski’s team is studying the genetic changes underlying the adaptation of the bacteria to their environment. • By measuring RNA production, the researchers found that two separate colonies showed changes in expression of the same 59 genes, compared to the original colonies. • The direction of change—increased or decreased expression—was the same for every gene. • This is an apparent case of parallel adaptive evolution. • Horizontal gene transfer also facilitates rapid evolution of prokaryotes. • Conjugation can permit exchange of a plasmid containing a few genes or large groups of genes. • Once the transferred genes are incorporated into the prokaryote’s genome, they are subject to natural selection. • Horizontal gene transfer is a major force in the long-term evolution of pathogenic bacteria. Concept 27.2 A great diversity of nutritional and metabolic adaptations have evolved in prokaryotes • Organisms can be categorized by their nutrition, based on how they obtain energy and carbon to build the organic molecules that make up their cells. • Nutritional diversity is greater among prokaryotes than among all eukaryotes. • Every type of nutrition observed in eukaryotes is found in prokaryotes, along with some nutritional modes unique to prokaryotes. • Organisms that obtain energy from light are phototrophs. • Organisms that obtain energy from chemicals in their environment are chemotrophs. • Organisms that need only CO2 as a carbon source are autotrophs. • Organisms that require at least one organic nutrient—such as glucose—as a carbon source are heterotrophs. • These categories of energy source and carbon source can be combined to group prokaryotes according to four major modes of nutrition. 1. Photoautotrophs are photosynthetic organisms that harness light energy to drive the synthesis of organic compounds from carbon dioxide. • Among the photoautotrophic prokaryotes are the cyanobacteria. • Among the photosynthetic eukaryotes are plants and algae. 2. Chemoautotrophs need only CO2 as a carbon source but obtain energy by oxidizing inorganic substances. • These substances include hydrogen sulfide (H2S), ammonia (NH3), and ferrous ions (Fe2+) among others. • This nutritional mode is unique to prokaryotes. 3. Photoheterotrophs use light to generate ATP but obtain their carbon in organic form. • This mode is restricted to a few marine prokaryotes. 4. Chemoheterotrophs must consume organic molecules for both energy and carbon. • This nutritional mode is found widely in prokaryotes, protists, fungi, animals, and even some parasitic plants. • Prokaryotic metabolism also varies with respect to oxygen. • Obligate aerobes require O2 for cellular respiration. • Facultative anaerobes will use O2 if present but can also grow by fermentation in an anaerobic environment. • Obligate anaerobes are poisoned by O2 and use either fermentation or anaerobic respiration. • In anaerobic respiration, inorganic molecules other than O2 accept electrons from electron transport chains. • Nitrogen is an essential component of proteins and nucleic acids in all organisms. • Eukaryotes are limited in the forms of nitrogen they can use. • In contrast, diverse prokaryotes can metabolize a wide variety of nitrogenous compounds. • Nitrogen-fixing prokaryotes convert N2 to NH3, making atmospheric nitrogen available to themselves (and eventually to other organisms) for incorporation into organic molecules. • Nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria are the most self-sufficient of all organisms. • They require only light energy, CO2, N2, water, and some minerals to grow. • Prokaryotes were once thought of as single-celled individualists. • Microbiologists now recognize that cooperation between prokaryotes allows them to use environmental resources they cannot exploit as individuals. • Cooperation may involve specialization in cells of a prokaryotic colony. • For example, the cyanobacterium Anabaena forms filamentous colonies with specialized cells to carry out nitrogen fixation. • Photosynthesis produces O2, which inactivates the enzymes involved in nitrogen fixation. • Most cells in the filament are photosynthetic, while a few specialized cells called heterocysts carry out only nitrogen fixation. • A heterocyst is surrounded by a thickened cell wall that restricts the entry of oxygen produced by neighboring photosynthetic cells. • Heterocysts transport fixed nitrogen to neighboring cells in exchange for carbohydrates. • In some prokaryotic species, metabolic cooperation occurs in surface-coating colonies known as biofilms. • Cells in a colony secrete signaling molecules to recruit nearby cells, causing the colony to grow. • Once the colony is sufficiently large, the cells begin producing proteins that adhere the cells to the substrate and to one another. • Channels in the biofilms allow nutrients to reach cells in the interior and allow wastes to be expelled. • In some cases, different species of prokaryotes may cooperate. • For example, sulfate-consuming bacteria and methane- consuming archaea coexist in ball-shaped aggregates in the mud of the ocean floor. • The bacteria use the archaea’s waste products. • In turn, the bacteria produce compounds that facilitate methane consumption by the archaea. • Each year, these archaea consume an estimated 300 billion kg of methane, a major greenhouse gas. Concept 27.3 Molecular systematics is illuminating prokaryotic phylogeny • U
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