FRESH insights into how bacteria protect themselves could help develop improved products to protect plants from disease.
Edinburgh University researchers have discovered how communities of beneficial bacteria form a waterproof coating on the roots of plants.
This helps protect the plants from microbes that could potentially cause disease.
Their insights could lead to ways to control this shield and improve its efficiency, which could help curb the risk of unwanted infections in agricultural or garden plants, the team says.
Scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee studied the protective film formed by the common soil bacterium Bacillus Subtilis.
They found it incorporates proteins that change shape as they reach the film surface.
This exposes an impervious surface on the protein molecules, enabling them to slot together like a jigsaw puzzle, to protect bacteria underneath.
Researchers say that being able to control the production of the biofilm in agricultural products could enable improved protection for plants.
The study, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The team behind the finding plans to research further applications for their discovery.