A fundamental question for those who study the ecology of microbes is to know how these microorganisms are organized in a certain space, the distances they keep between each other and the niches they occupy within their hosts. To better understand this distribution, a team of scientists from the Forsyth Institute of the University of Cambridge has examined in depth the microorganisms that inhabit the surface of our tongue.
And the results, published in the specialized journal Cellthey are, to say the least, surprising, both in number and distribution. And it seems that the complex microbiota that we welcome in this oral organ prefers to live with its congenersand is reluctant to occupy niches that do not belong to it.
The distribution of bacteria on your tongue
Spatial ecology is the discipline that investigates the processes that give rise to the distribution of patterns within a space limited to a community of individuals. In studies with non-microscopic organisms, this field of study is commonly known as ‘landscape ecology’. In the case of the microbes that populate our mouths, the matter is somewhat more complex, since, rather than by space, these organisms are usually distributed according to other factors, such as temperature, humidity, pH or oxygen, in addition of alterations in the environment, such as abrasion or oral hygiene.
As they have discovered, more than by space, these organisms are usually distributed according to other factors, such as temperature, humidity, pH or oxygen.
In the same way, microbes influence their neighbors by acting as a source or sink for metabolites, nutrients, and inhibitory moleculesso the relationship of these microorganisms with each other and their dispersion on the buccal surface -in this case on the tongue-, is a much more complex task to determine than, for example, the distribution area of a bird or a colony of penguins
“When they thrive in a certain niche, the bacteria group together. When one of them divides, the two resulting cells usually stay together. This is the first step in forming a cluster, or group, explain to National Geographic University of Chicago biologist Jessika Mark Welch, a co-author of the study. We believe that the shapes of the groups of bacteria that we see in the language tell us something about the growth dynamics of these microorganisms: those that develop well in an oxygen environment will expand in the form of patches that widen as they grow. spread outward from the tongue (the case of those of the genus rothya), or will be concentrated on the outside (like those of the genus Streptococcus). On the other hand, bacteria that prefer a low-oxygen environment form centrally widening patches around human epithelial cells.”
756 different microbes in the mouth
The microbiota of the human oral cavity contains up to 756 species of microbesTherefore, analyzing the most prevalent microorganisms could be especially useful to make an X-ray of the predominant bacteria.
To perform the analysis, the researchers proceeded to take samples from the tongue of 21 healthy volunteers. With the help of fluorescent labels, they identified specific groups of bacteria, each of which is responsible for the production of nutrients for our body. They identified up to 17 bacterial genera that are commonly prevalent on the tongue, and found that virtually without exception, groups of bacteria remained well cohesive between members of the same genus, and sometimes the same species.
Bacteria are arranged in groups
More specifically, of these 17 genera, they identified 3 that were present in all the individuals that were part of the study: Actinomyces, rothya Y Streptococcus. The former seemed to show a dominant distribution in certain regions near the central part of the epithelial cells, while those of the genus, rothya they were often identified forming large patches on the exterior of the epithelium and among other microbial communities. bacteria of the genus Streptococcus formed a thin crust located on the edge of the mouth and small rows inside the organ. By looking at the images, the researchers were able to guess how these colonies establish and grow over time.
Of the 17 genera that they observed, three of them were present in all the individuals that were part of the study: Actinomyces, Rothia Y Streptococcus
Although scientists have an extensive literature on the composition of the microbiota that populates our bodies, this is the first time that they have been able to observe the microbial communities of the tongue in such detail. Checking out where different species congregate and how they are organized can reveal much more about how bacteria work and how they are organized within our bodies.
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