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Video Microscopy Unveils the Tricks of Nature's Toughest Glue, Oozed By a Bacterium

A soybean-shaped bacterium called Caulobacter crescentus, found in freshwater and seawater, makes one of the strongest adhesives in the world. Now high-resolution video microscopy is shedding light on how it can carefully use this adhesive, like a super-precise application of superglue, to stick on surfaces in wet environments.

C. crescentus is studied for its interesting cell differentiation properties — it has two daughter stages, swimming around with a little flagellum and then producing a “holdfast,” which cements it to aquatic surfaces. This differentiation from flagellum to holdfast makes the organism a useful study subject. But it hasn’t been clear just how this holdfast works with such great accuracy.

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