Research in anaerobic Clostridium coculture is kind of a challenge.  Syntrophic communities are indeed of the utmost interest for the microbial production of biofuels, propanediol, butanol, butyrate, etc.  But the fluorescent proteins conventionally used for deciphering molecular mechanisms work very poorly in anaerobes.

Prof. Terry Papoutsakis of the University of Delaware has therefore explored anaerobic Clostridium coculture for a while.  And his team has just disclosed how two different bacteria, C. ljungdahlii and C. acetobutylicum, engage in heterologous cell fusion leading to massive exchange of cellular material, including proteins and RNA.  Moreover, they even form persistent hybrid cells, well beyond strict syntrophy!  While suspected to be widely distributed in nature, such fusion events had gone unproven so far.  Fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry of one species with stained RNA and the other tagged with a fluorescent protein demonstrated extensive RNA exchange and identified hybrid cells, some of which continued to divide.  The experimental setup implemented C. acetobutylicum-ZapA-FAST strain developed in a first step to evaluate FAST of The Twinkle Factory for fluorescence reporting in anaerobic Clostridia.

“[These phenomena] may shed new light onto little-understood phenomena, such as antibiotic heteroresistance of pathogens, pathogen invasion of human tissues, and the evolutionary trajectory and persistence of unculturable bacteria”

Prof. Terry Papoutsakis, Eugene Du Pont Chair, University of Delaware

Papoutsakis’s group firstly published preliminary results with FAST and tfLime in Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 2019.  And thereafter the results on cocultures in mBio 2020.

The Twinkle Factory sells the fluorogens for FAST and splitFAST.

More reading.

Stain different, tag FAST!