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New Highways of Communication between Living Organisms on Earth

Prof. Sigal Ben Yehuda and Ilan Rosenshine of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, IMRIC, Faculty of Medicine) were awarded the prestigious ERC Synergy Grant.​​​​Bacteria are the dominant and most abundant organisms on earth, residing in complex multi-species communities in all the ecosystems. Crucial for their capacity to flourish, bacteria need to maintain intricate molecular crosstalk with other bacteria and eukaryotic cells in specific ecological niche. Bacteria maintain a dialogue with other bacteria and organisms using small molecules that are directed to their close environment. Bacteria can also inject actively some of their own molecules to cells of plants, animals and even Man either to subjugate them or to foil them. A pioneering work by Professors Ben Yehuda and Rosenshine has led to the discovery of a revolutionary new mode of dialogue and exchange between bacteria and living organisms including humans. They have identified a complex, termed CORE, composed of five membrane proteins highly conserved across the entire bacterial world.​​​​They discovered that bacteria through CORE inject to and pump in cytoplasmic molecules from other bacteria as well as from human cells. Molecules thus, can traffic not only in-between bacteria (even among evolutionary distant species), but also in-between pathogenic bacteria and their human host cells and vice versa. The implications of such a continuous intercellular flow of cytoplasmic molecules via CORE are game changers, indicating that in natural niches, such as soil, infected tissues (animals and plants), or human intestines, the bacterial metabolic flexibility and versatility are considerably higher than previously thought resulting in permanent exchange and dialogue between bacteria and hosts. The outcome of these findings may revolutionize the way we view bacterial communities and host-pathogen interactions. This level of interaction and dialogue that has never been imagined before extends communications between living organisms from simple external signals to complex intracellular dialogue. This discovery will provide new ways to inhibit or promote intercellular molecular exchanges, revolutionizing the entire field of bacteriology, ranging from basic bacterial cellular biology and host-pathogen interaction, through the control of infectious diseases and acquisition of antibacterial resistance, to food technology and industrial applications.​​​​