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Part a shows two men in yellow raingear hosing off oil-drenched rocks on a sea-shore. Part b shows an oil-drenched bird sitting in oily water.
(a) Cleaning up oil after the Valdez spill in Alaska, the workers hosed oil from beaches and then used a floating boom to corral the oil, which was finally skimmed from the water surface. Some species of bacteria are able to solubilize and degrade the oil. (b) One of the most catastrophic consequences of oil spills is the damage to fauna. (credit a: modification of work by NOAA; credit b: modification of work by GOLUBENKOV, NGO: Saving Taman)

Prokaryotes in and on the body

Humans are no exception when it comes to forming symbiotic relationships with prokaryotes. We are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as single organisms, but in reality, we are walking ecosystems. There are 10 to 100 times as many bacterial and archaeal cells inhabiting our bodies as we have cells in our bodies. Some of these are in mutually beneficial relationships with us, in which both the human host and the bacterium benefit, while some of the relationships are classified as commensalism    , a type of relationship in which the bacterium benefits and the human host is neither benefited nor harmed.

Human gut flora lives in the large intestine and consists of hundreds of species of bacteria and archaea, with different individuals containing different species mixes. The term “flora,” which is usually associated with plants, is traditionally used in this context because bacteria were once classified as plants. The primary functions of these prokaryotes for humans appear to be metabolism of food molecules that we cannot break down, assistance with the absorption of ions by the colon, synthesis of vitamin K, training of the infant immune system, maintenance of the adult immune system, maintenance of the epithelium of the large intestine, and formation of a protective barrier against pathogens.

The surface of the skin is also coated with prokaryotes. The different surfaces of the skin, such as the underarms, the head, and the hands, provide different habitats for different communities of prokaryotes. Unlike with gut flora, the possible beneficial roles of skin flora have not been well studied. However, the few studies conducted so far have identified bacteria that produce antimicrobial compounds as probably responsible for preventing infections by pathogenic bacteria.

Researchers are actively studying the relationships between various diseases and alterations to the composition of human microbial flora. Some of this work is being carried out by the Human Microbiome Project, funded in the United States by the National Institutes of Health.

Section summary

Prokaryotes existed for billions of years before plants and animals appeared. Microbial mats are thought to represent the earliest forms of life on Earth, and there is fossil evidence, called stromatolites, of their presence about 3.5 billion years ago. During the first 2 billion years, the atmosphere was anoxic and only anaerobic organisms were able to live. Cyanobacteria began the oxygenation of the atmosphere. The increase in oxygen concentration allowed the evolution of other life forms.

Prokaryotes (domains Archaea and Bacteria) are single-celled organisms lacking a nucleus. They have a single piece of circular DNA in the nucleoid area of the cell. Most prokaryotes have cell wall outside the plasma membrane. Bacteria and Archaea differ in the compositions of their cell membranes and the characteristics of their cell walls.

Bacterial cell walls contain peptidoglycan. Archaean cell walls do not have peptidoglycan. Bacteria can be divided into two major groups: Gram-positive and Gram-negative. Gram-positive organisms have a thick cell wall. Gram-negative organisms have a thin cell wall and an outer membrane. Prokaryotes use diverse sources of energy to assemble macromolecules from smaller molecules. Phototrophs obtain their energy from sunlight, whereas chemotrophs obtain it from chemical compounds.

Infectious diseases caused by bacteria remain among the leading causes of death worldwide. The excessive use of antibiotics to control bacterial infections has resulted in resistant forms of bacteria being selected. Foodborne diseases result from the consumption of contaminated food, pathogenic bacteria, viruses, or parasites that contaminate food. Prokaryotes are used in human food products. Microbial bioremediation is the use of microbial metabolism to remove pollutants. The human body contains a huge community of prokaryotes, many of which provide beneficial services such as the development and maintenance of the immune system, nutrition, and protection from pathogens.

Art connections

[link] Which of the following statements is true?

  1. Gram-positive bacteria have a single cell wall formed from peptidoglycan.
  2. Gram-positive bacteria have an outer membrane.
  3. The cell wall of Gram-negative bacteria is thick, and the cell wall of Gram-positive bacteria is thin.
  4. Gram-negative bacteria have a cell wall made of peptidoglycan, while Gram-positive bacteria have a cell wall made of phospholipids.

[link] A

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Questions & Answers

what makes golgi body in plants
Abdulkareem Reply
name the membrane of the plants
Abdulkareem
During organs transplantation, the organs cannot be taken from just anybody since the graft would be rejected sooner or later due to
Liter Reply
Non-MHC compatibility on the organ and an attack from the patient's immune system.
Eric
what makes golgi body in plants
Abdulkareem
what is integument system
Joy Reply
Cellular respiration
Lucy Reply
what are the characteristics of living things
Ruth Reply
Movement Respiration Nutrition/Feeding Irritability/Sensitivity Growth Excretion Reproduction Deat/Life span
Hashim
What makes children from the same father and mother sometimes don't look alike?
Hashim
identification of problems
Nana Reply
what happens in the process of raising the human arms
Nana
what is biology
Brandi Reply
first step in scientific method
Brandi
In an investigation the pancreatic duct of a mammal was blocked.It was found that the blood sugar regulation remained normal while food digestion was impaired.Explain
Mac Reply
To begin with, obstruction of pancreatic duct will alter the blood sugar level as the juices responsible for glucose regulation will be rendered inconsequential. This will in turn affect the rate of digestion and absorbtion of digested food substances by the Villus .
Muktar
characteristics of algae
OMIME Reply
Algae are eukaryotic organisms. Algae do not have roots and stems. Algae have chlorophyll and helps in carrying out photosynthesis.
Aditi
Cell wall is the rigid layer enclosed by membranes of plants and prokayortic cell, it maintains the shape of the cell and serve as a protective barrier.
chizoba Reply
ECOLOGY: is a branch of biology that studies the interactions among organisms and their biophysical environment, which includes both biotic and abiotic components. 
chizoba
via nutrient cycles and energy flows. For instance, the energy from the sun is captured by plants through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a biological process through which plants manufacture their own food with the aid of light from the sun and frc sources (e.g. cabon dioxide and water)
chizoba
What is cell wall
Taiwo Reply
cell wall is the outemost rigid covering of the plants ,that provides protection to the plants.
Aditi
what is integument system
Joy
The integument system is your skin and the largest system in the body.
Eric
what is protoplast?
Liter
The cytoplasm is inside of the cell, minus the nucleus. The protoplasm is the inside of the cell and the nucleus.
Eric
Out line of cell
Salma
what is ecology, ecosystem?
Nkeng Reply
what is digestive system
Lucky Reply
digestive system is the human syman system that icludes esopuges stomach o braking down of food in to useful substance to our body
samrawit
definition of biology basics
Ritu Reply
the potential energy of a molecule can be inquired by their number of?
Jesus Reply
note on the structure of DNA
bernadette
The chemical potential of a species in a mixture is defined as the rate of change of free energy of a thermodynamic system with respect to the change in the number of atoms or molecules of the species that are added to the system. 
Eric

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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11487/1.9
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