Can microbes sleep?

In one of the previous articles, we raised the question of if insects can sleep. As it turned out, they can. But insects at least visible to the naked eye. But what happens to microbes? Do microorganisms sleep?

Microbes have no nervous system, so they cannot sleep in the human understanding of this word. But is there a chance that they have the so-called circidal rhythm, which can be interpreted as sleeping in microbes?

This is interesting: circidal rhythm is a change in the intensity of various biological processes in a living organism due to alternation of the day and night. In other words, these are biological clocks present in many living organisms. For example, a circadian rhythm causes some kinds of caterpillars to eat foliage at night when their natural enemies - birds are sleeping.

Microbes are a generalizing concept for microorganisms that are not visible to the naked eye. To find out if microbes have a circular rhythm, scientists decided to put an experiment on bacteria by selecting the type cyanobacteria. Why exactly they? Because these bacteria have the ability to photosynthesis. Accordingly, it would be logical to observe circadian rhythms from them separating the receipt of food from other biological processes. Before the start of the experiment, almost all scholars were confident that there is no circadian rhythm in cyanobacteria. If only because these rhythms in living organisms are tied to alternating day and night, and the cyanobacteria themselves live only 24 hours.

But what was the surprise of scientists when the results of the experiment showed that cyanobacteria still possess a circadian rhythm! It was possible to prove it with the help of genetic engineering: experts were introduced in bacteria gene from insects of fireflies, responsible for the production of the oxidative enzyme luciferase, which launches the chemical reaction with the emission of light (which is why fireflies are glowing in the dark). This gene is activated during one of the life cycles of cyanobacteria.

Look at the animation at the bottom: the bacteria floculate, then go out, turning into the phase of rest, proving the existence of circadian rhythms.

Cyanobacteria So far, the only microorganisms with the proven presence of circadian rhythms, which in the case of microscopic life can be equal to the remote similarity of sleep. There are similar rhythms from other microbes - it is unknown, but scientists tend to a positive answer: the possibility of their presence is proved by researchers on a living example.

Why did scientists seriously undertook to study this issue? It is unlikely to just satisfy idle curiosity. Understanding the process of circadian rhythms in microorganisms will help to better understand their mechanism, as well as will provide an opportunity to control the vital activity of bacteria. For example, a familiar cyanobacterium produces 30% of all oxygen on Earth. All live life on the planet depends on this invisible organism. So it would not be better to understand the principles of its work, so that, taking control of the life of bacteria, to provide oxygen, for example, distant space colonies? In addition, scientists hope that new knowledge will help take control of pathogenic microorganisms. Perhaps this is the path to the future without viruses and diseases.