Cyanobacteria have (are) tiny little eyes

Cool new research shows that Synechocystis cells detect light much in the same way that human eyes do

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We knew that some bacteria, including the cyanobacterium Synechocystis, can detect and move towards light, which is important in its oceanic environment. However, rather than doing so by responding to a gradient in light intensity as many other organisms, Schuergers et al. report in eLife that Synechocystis cells act as spherical microlenses. When a light is shone at the cell, an image of the light source is focused at the opposite edge. Photoreceptors respond to the focused image of the light source, providing the cell with cues to move towards the light.

In essence, these tiny guys are light-loving, microscopic eyeballs!

Nonia Pariente

Chief Editor, Nature Microbiology

I come from a mid-sized city on the northwestern coast of Spain. My interest in science initially took me to Madrid, where I finished university and received a PhD in molecular biology. In Madrid, I studied RNA virus evolution and new antiviral strategies with Esteban Domingo. I then moved to UCLA, where I focused on developing lentiviral vectors for gene therapy in Irvin Chen’s laboratory. In 2007, I made the plunge from bench to desk and joined the EMBO Reports editorial team as Reviews Editor, becoming Scientific Editor two years later and Senior Editor in 2012. At EMBO Reports, I was responsible for microbiology and immunology, among other areas, and spent many years expanding my understanding and love for all things microbial. In the summer of 2015, I joined the Nature Microbiology editorial launch team, handling all things related to virology and mycology (and for a brief while parasitology) and -after a couple of stints covering microbiology at Nature- I became the Chief Editor of Nature Microbiology in 2019. I look forward to interacting with the community and providing a venue to publish the most important advances in the field.


Go to the profile of Michael Chao
almost 6 years ago
Ok, that's officially super cool. I wonder if other cyanobacteria call them 'four eyes'.