Bacterial Reproduction: A Complete Guide

Let’s face it – bacteria can often be a frightening thing to think about, especially when we start to think about how it reproduces and spreads.

Bacterial reproduction is actually a very interesting concept and in terms of microbiology, it’s something to behold. However, it can often baffle us how bacteria can reproduce and spread so quickly.

Bacterial Reproduction: A Complete Guide

This guide will explain how bacteria reproduces, along with other handy pieces of information. 

Read on for more! 

Binary Fission

Bacteria reproduces asexually because they are prokaryotic organisms.

The way in which reproduction occurs is through a process known as binary fission, which is when one cell divides and creates two cells.

This process is something you may have seen recreations of on television before perhaps on a cartoon, and there’s a lot of fact in the way that they portray it. 

Once the cell has divided and created two cells, these cells are now genetically identical – although later in the process, they can recombine and create a whole host of different genetic groups. 

Most types of bacteria, which also includes E. coli and salmonella, will use binary fission as a means of reproduction. 

The molecule for DNA will replicate itself and these copies will connect separately to the membrane of the cell. 

During growth, the cell will stretch and therefore the overall length between the copies of the molecules will increase.

At around 100% of its original size, the cell’s membrane goes towards the center.

Next, a cell wall is created to protect the cell and divides the two molecules to form 2 brand new cells. 

Benefits Of Binary Fission

For things like bacteria, binary fission has an array of benefits. Primarily, it allows for rapid reproduction of cells and therefore rapid reproduction of bacteria.

Within the right parameters, bacteria can double its overall population numbers in minutes. 

Additionally, because this method works asexually, there is no requirement for a mate or sexual partner – and this simply speeds the growth process up even further. 

As the resulting splits share the same DNA data, the environment they live in will be perfect for them to continue the process. 

Bacteria Cell Structures

Bacteria have different cell structures. Often you can expect them to be spherical, spiral or rod shaped. 

However, within the structure they share the same make-up. You have:

  • The cell wall – this is the outer cover that protects the cell and also makes up the general shape 
  • Cell membrane – this regulates the flow of what goes in and out of the cell 
  • Cytoplasm – this is a substance that appears like gel but is made up predominantly of water but also has enzymes and salts 
  • Ribosomes – this is the part responsible for the creation and production of protein 
  • Flagella – this helps the locomotion of the cell 
  • Nucleoid – the DNA hub of the cell 
  • Plasmids – DNA structures that carry genetic information to the nucleoid 

Bacterial Recombination

Whilst binary fission has all of the benefits that we discussed above, nothing in life is without its drawbacks. 

Because all of the cells being produced and reproduced share the same DNA and therefore are identical, the threats that are posed by the outside world can wipe out entire colonies. 

These include changes to the environment, natural disasters, chemicals and antibiotics. To try to combat this, bacteria can vary its genetic code by using a process known as recombination. 

There are a number of facets to this, including conjugation, transformation and transduction. We’ll take a look at these more closely now. 

Conjugation

Using the protein tube known as a pilus, the genetic data can be transferred from one bacteria to another. Not all bacteria do this though, but some can and this is one way to survive. 

Transformation

Some types of bacteria have a unique way of effectively transferring genetic data from dead cells to themselves. They transfer the data through to the cell membrane and this is then taken into the DNA of the overall cell. 

Transduction

Transduction is a little more complicated. It works as a type of recombination in that it shares the bacteria’s DNA, but it instead uses bacteriophages (this is a kind of virus that is capable of infecting bacteria). 

It’s also worth noting that transduction can either be generalized or specialized.

Once this type of virus connects to bacteria, it “injects” its genome into it and once this has occurred, it will split the bacteria, which forms further copies. 

However, this process does not stop here. The bacteriophage will continue with other bacteria, repeating the process over and over again sharing its genome from the original host onwards. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Bacteria Reproduce Using Mitosis?

No. Bacteria do not undergo the mitosis process during reproduction.

What Classifies As Bacteria?

Bacteria are microbes with pretty much a simple structure when it comes to the bigger picture among other organisms. 

There are many different types of bacteria, some of which are “good bacteria” which effectively live colonies within, for example, your gut. 

Others however can be deadly and lead to extreme illnesses and even death. Knowing the differences is important and keeping yourself safe from harmful bacteria is even more important. 

Can Antibiotics Kill All Bacteria?

No. In fact, some bacteria have plasmids which contain a genetic trait that makes them immune to antibiotics! 

As a result, you may need to undergo further medical tests if you are infected. The best way to fight against these types of bacteria is through prevention. 

How Can I Avoid Bacteria?

You can never avoid bacteria, it lives all around and inside us.

However, if you are wondering how to avoid deadly bacteria to the best of your ability, keep up a good hygiene routine and always be mindful of your surroundings. 

Conclusion

Bacteria reproduce using a method known as binary fission and they can rapidly grow in numbers!

Jennifer Dawkins

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