The Action of Radiation on Bacteria

  • Hermann Dertinger
  • Horst Jung
Part of the Heidelberg Science Library book series (HSL)


Bacteria are the smallest, autonomous living systems with differentiated metabolic processes and able to reproduce independently. They also have a number of characteristics that make them a favoured radiation-biological cellular test system. They have a high metabolic activity and therefore reproduce rapidly, so that the effect of an irradiation can be observed after a relatively short period. For example, an E. coli bacterium divides about once in every 17 minutes under optimal growth conditions. Bacteria can be grown on well-defined media; if this is solid, colonies that can be counted with the naked eye are formed. The fact that the structure of the bacterial genome is very simple compared with that of higher cells is of particular interest for experiments in radiation biology and genetics. However, it is so simple that it might be considered to be a special case. In contrast to other cells, bacteria do not have a cell nucleus in the classical sense. Moreover, the division of the genetic material preceding normal cell division has few similarities with to the mechanism of chromosome duplication in higher cells; no spindle apparatus can be observed during this process. In spite of these phenomenological differences the terms nuclei and chromosomes are used, especially in the case of coli bacteria in which the genetic material gives the impression of being very compact. Bacteria contain varying numbers of nuclei, depending on their stage and conditions of growth.


Double Strand Break Single Strand Break Radiation Sensitivity Inactivation Curve Radiation Biology 
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

© Springer-Verlag Berlin · Heidelberg 1970

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hermann Dertinger
    • Horst Jung
      • 1
    1. 1.Nuclear Science CenterUniversity of Heidelberg and Institute for Radiation BiologyKarlsruheGermany

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