The Web of Life (7-1-2) Electrons

 Electrons

Electrons are the fuel. ~ Chinese molecular biologist Chang-Jun Liu

Calcium ion waves illustrate the modus operandi of communication at the most basic physical level: the deliberate movement of electrons.

Proteins specify construction of cellular materials by precisely placing electrons. For instance, plant cell proteins selectively allocate electrons at just the right time to produce the specific type of lignin that a plant wants. Lignin is the complex polymer that provides the scaffolding for algae and plant cells.

Salmonella bacteria are intracellular pathogens. They ply their infectious trade by shuffling electrons.

To spread their infection, Salmonella hitch rides in macrophages, which are immune system cells responsible for containing infection. First, a bacterium calls for a taxi by generating an electric field which attracts white blood cells. Macrophages engulf the electrified Salmonella, supposedly succeeding in pathogen containment.

Once ensconced in a while blood cell, a Salmonella changes its electronic songs to get the macrophage to leave the intestinal tissue where the cell made its capture. The macrophage enters the circulatory system carrying its captive. The Salmonella then entices its release with an electronic signal, thus allowing the infection to spread through the body. A wily symphony of electrons has macrophages dancing like puppets to Salmonella’s tune.