A predatory patchwork: membrane and surface structures of Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus

Carey Lambert, Laura Hobley, Chien-Yi Chang, Andrew Fenton, Michael Capeness, Liz Sockett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Predatory Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus bacteria are remarkable in that they attach to, penetrate and digest other Gram-negative bacteria, living and replicating within them until all resources are exhausted, when they escape the prey ghost to invade fresh prey. Remarkable remodeling of both predator and prey cell occurs during this process to allow the Bdellovibrio to exploit the intracellular niche they have worked so hard to enter, keeping the prey "bdelloplast" intact until the end of predatory growth. If one views motile non-predatory bacteria in a light microscope, one is immediately struck by how rare it is for bacteria to collide. This highlights how the cell surface of Bdellovibrio must be specialized and adapted to allow productive collisions and further to allow entry into the prey periplasm and subsequent secretion of hydrolytic enzymes to digest it. Bdellovibrio can, however, also be made to grow artificially without prey; thus, they have a large genome containing both predatory genes and genes for saprophytic heterotrophic growth. Thus, the membrane and outer surface layers are a patchwork of proteins encompassing not only those that have a sole purpose in heterotrophic growth but also many more that are specialized or employed to attach to, enter, remodel, kill and ultimately digest prey cells. There is much that is as yet not understood, but molecular genetic and post-genomic approaches to microbial physiology have enhanced the pioneering biochemical work of four decades ago in characterizing some of the key events and surface protein requirements for prey attack.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-61
Number of pages49
JournalAdvances in microbial physiology
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bdellovibrio
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial
  • Flagella


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