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Polysaccharide metabolism regulates structural colour in bacterial colonies.

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The brightest colours in nature often originate from the interaction of light with materials structured at the nanoscale. Different organisms produce such coloration with a wide variety of materials and architectures. In the case of bacterial colonies, structural colours stem for the periodic organization of the cells within the colony, and while considerable efforts have been spent on elucidating the mechanisms responsible for such coloration, the biochemical processes determining the development of this effect have not been explored. Here, we study the influence of nutrients on the organization of cells from the structurally coloured bacteria Flavobacterium strain IR1. By analysing the optical properties of the colonies grown with and without specific polysaccharides, we found that the highly ordered organization of the cells can be altered by the presence of fucoidans. Additionally, by comparing the organization of the wild-type strain with mutants grown in different nutrient conditions, we deduced that this regulation of cell ordering is linked to a specific region of the IR1 chromosome. This region encodes a mechanism for the uptake and metabolism of polysaccharides, including a polysaccharide utilization locus (PUL operon) that appears specific to fucoidan, providing new insight into the biochemical pathways regulating structural colour in bacteria.



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J R Soc Interface

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The Royal Society
European Commission Horizon 2020 (H2020) Marie Sk?odowska-Curie actions (722842)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (2110570)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/K014617/1)
BBSRC (BB/V00364X/1)
European Research Council (639088)
European Commission Horizon 2020 (H2020) ERC (101001637)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/P030467/1)
This work was funded by by EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 722842 (ITN Plant-inspired Materials and Surfaces–PlaMatSu), the Swiss National Science Foundation under project P2ZHP2_183998, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) iCASE fellowship (2110570), the BBSRC David Phillips fellowship (BB/K014617/1), the BBSRC grant BB/V00364X/1, the ERC (ERC-St-Grant014H2020 639088), the ERC BiTe (101001637) and the Engineering, the Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC) NanoDTC grant (EP/L015978/1) and the EPSRC Underpinning Multi-User Equipment Call (EP/P030467/1). CI would like to thank the iLAB, Utrecht, for facilities.
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