Origins of life

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 111–116 | Cite as

The gas vacuole: An early organelle of prokaryote motility?

  • James T. Staley


Several lines of evidence suggest that the gas vesicle may have been an early organelle of prokaryote motility. First, it is found in bacteria that are thought to be representatives of primitive groups. Second, it is a simple structure, and the structure alone imparts the function of motility. Thirdly, it is widely distributed amongst prokaryotes, having been found in the purple and green sulfur photosynthetic bacteria, cyanobacteria, methanogenic bacteria, obligate and facultative anaerobic heterotrophic bacteria, as well as aerobic heterotrophic bacteria that divide by budding and binary transverse fission. Recent evidence suggests that in some bacteria the genes for gas vesicle synthesis occur on plasmids. Thus, the wide distribution of this characteristic could be due to recent evolution and rapid dispersal, though early evolution is not precluded. Though the gas vesicle structure itself appears to be highly conserved among the various groups of bacteria, it seems doubtful that the regulatory mechanism to control its synthesis could be the same for the diverse gas vacuolate bacterial groups.


Geochemistry Early Evolution Wide Distribution Simple Structure Heterotrophic Bacterium 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Co 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • James T. Staley
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Microbiology and ImmunologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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