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Mycoplasmas -general structure

The mycoplasmas are the smallest (0.15-0.30μm) and the
simplest self replicating prokaryotes. Mycoplasma is a genus of
over 100 species of cell wall lacking bacteria. Each mycoplasmal
cell is externally bounded by a trilaminar membrane, rich in
cholesterol, which gives rigidity to the membrane. This
membrane is composed of approximately two-third protein and
one-third lipid as in other prokaryotes. The membrane lipids
resemble those of the other bacteria, apart from the large
quantities of cholesterol in the sterol-requiring mycoplasmas.
Inside the cell membrane, the mycoplasmal cell contains
ribosomes and the nucleoid, the genetic material which is a
double stranded circular DNA molecule. Mycoplasmas are the
organisms having the smallest genomes, with a total of 500-1000
genes. The mesosomes are not found in the Mycoplasma. The
wall-less mycoplasma are pleomorphic, with multiple shapes,
commonly with granular and filamentous forms. The coccus is the
basic form of all mycoplasmas in culture, with filamentous and
elongated forms also occurring frequently. The name Mycoplasma
has been derived from the tendency of filaments to branch truly
to produce myceloid structure (myces-fungus, plasma- form).
Some mycoplasmas possess unique attachment structures as
bulbous enlargement, or a tapered tip to adhere to the host

however gliding motility is common in them. they are not retained by the bacterial filters and can pass through them readily like viruses. They experience osmotic burst or osmotic shocks in hypotonic conditions. non-sporing and non- fimbriated.surfaces as in M. Mycoplasmas are osmotically labile and grow best in hypertonic and isotonic conditions. The lack of a cell wall makes the mycoplasmal cell flexible in form and. which is a strict aerobe. The mycoplasms are generally non-motile. genetalium. Cells of Mycoplasma pneumoniae . Most species of Mycoplasma are facultative anaerobes. pneumoniae. thus. pneumoniae and M. except M.

Pelvic inflammatory disease. Electron micrograph of thin-sectioned mycoplasma cells Pathogenicity Mycoplasmas are parasitic on a wide range of hosts. genitalium causes urinary tract infections and Non-gonococcal urethritis. whereas M. including humans. pneumoniae infects the respiratory tract and causes Pneumonia. animals and insects. In humans Mycoplasma exists in parasitic association with ciliated epithelial cells of genital and respiratory tracts. causing diseases in them. M. Mycoplasma hominis causes Pyelonephritis. plants. Mastitis in cows is . causing surface infections and diseases in these organs.

the food for many phloem-feeding insects. The mycoplasmas cause Witches broom diseases. In plants. kunkelii. also caused by many species of Mycoplasma . witches broom growth. discoloration. and disturbed periodicity. the plant pathogenic mycoplasmas are restricted to phloem sieve. phytopathogenic mycoplasmas are restricted to the phloem sieve-tubes that contain photosynthetic sap. The diseases aster yellow. which leads to a typical growth reduction. bovis. and elm necrosis. phoeniceum. which are characterised by hormonal disorders . S. intensified negative geotropism. pathogenic mycoplasmas are responsible for several hundred diseases. virescence. phyllody. whereas S. kunkelii is the causal agent of corn stunt. phoeniceum is responsible for periwinkle yellows. Spiroplasma citri causes citrus stubborn. . tissues. and belong to two groups-phytoplasmas and spiroplasmas. In plants. Transmission of mycoplasmas As we know. and S. In tissue culture. wilting and premature death. tubes.M. are also ascribed to mycoplasmas. Mycoplasmas also cause phloem degeneration. etc. pear decline. mycoplasma prove as serious contaminants. bovihirnis. The three pathogenic spiroplasmas known to cause diseases in plants are Spiroplasma citri. organs and plants. S. which are enriched in photosynthetic sap. causing diseases in the culture cells. M.

are susceptible to antibiotics and are. unlike viruses. aphids. since these smallest prokaryotes lack a cell wall. The wall-less bacteria of division Firmicutes are placed . which have a wall-degrading mechanism of action. which targets cell wall. etc. Mycoplasmas are resistant to antibacterial agents that target cell wall. However. and specifically transmit these phytopathogenic mycoplasmas to other plants. Treatment of mycoplasmas Mycoplasmas. pneumoniae is transmissible by respiratory droplets during close contact with a symptomatic person. and M. genetalium is transmitted by sexual contact. which have different mode of action (inhibition of protein synthesis) than penicillin. leaf-hoppers. after feeding on the infected phloem. such as tetracycline and erythromycin. carry these organisms in their proboscis. psyllids. they are not killed by antibiotics. They are inhibited by antibiotics. therefore. The bacteria in Firmicutes are gram positive and have low G-C concentration in their genomes. these insects. such as penicillin and sulpha drugs. In humans. Therefore. M. the pathogenic Mycoplasma pneumoniae is transmitted by inhalation of respiratory droplets. treated by them.viz. Mycoplasmas are also having low G-C concentration in their genomes. Taxonomy of mycoplasmas The mycoplasmas have been placed in division Firmicutes on the basis of 16s rRNA gene analysis.

viz. while as the ureaplasma depend on urea as metabolite. require complex media for in- vitro cultivation. which contains two genera. Mycoplasma pneumonia and M. This is the reason why a small number of mycoplasma existing in nature have been so far cultivated in laboratory.Mycoplasma and Ureaplasma. The mycoplasmas require sterols for their growth. genetalium also grow very slowly and poorly in-vitro. they too are placed in the class Mollicutes.in the class Mollicutes (which stands for soft skin) and since mycoplasmas lack a cell wall. The cultivable mycoplasmas. The systematic position of the genus Mycoplasma is shown below: Kingdom: Bacteria Division: Firmicutes Class: Mollicutes Order: Mycoplasmatales Family: Mycoplasmataceae Genus: Mycoplasma Cultural characteristics The mycoplasmas depend on their host for diverse nutritional requirements and. thus. The order Mycoplasmatales has a single family Mycoplasmataceae. The media for mycoplasma culture contain serum (5- 20%)-which provides cholesterol and fatty acid for membrane .

Fried egg colonies of Mycoplasma sp.synthesis. Penicillin or Thallium acetate. peptone. heart infusion. yeast extract. In order to exclude and prevent contamination of fast growing bacteria. salts. the medium is supplemented with urea. or both. glucose or arginine as source of energy. possibly as source of energy. is added to the medium. For culturing ureaplasmas. .

Enough evidence about the simplicity and incompleteness of the electron transport chain is the fact that the reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) oxidase activity is cytoplasmic. mycoplasmas lack a well-organised and complex electron transport system in their membranes.Metabolism The reduced. The two proven ways of ATP generation in mycoplasmas are both based on the substrate level phosphorylation. Mycoplasmas do have truncated respiratory system. Therefore. minimal genome in mycoplasmas results in poor metabolic and biosynthetic systems. Arginine deaminase Arginine + H2O Citrulline + NH3 Ornithine carbamoyltransferase Citrulline + Inorganic orthophosphate Ornithine + CarbamoyIPO4 Carbamate kinase Carbamoyl PO4 + ADP ATP + CO2 + NH3 . The electron transport system lacks quinones and cytochromes. Putting forth the above mentioned facts. possibility of oxidative phosphorylation as an ATP-generating system in mycoplasmas is out rightly ruled out. The major source of ATP is the Arginine dihydrolase pathway.

lipids and proteins. undergoes the following reactions to yield ATP by substrate-level phosphorylation. Molecular biology and mode of nutrition in mycoplasmas The genome of mycoplasmas is characteristically prokaryotic. Acetyl coA produced by the oxidative decarboxylation of pyruvate. Sterol requiring mycoplasmas incorporate sterols. RNA. Thus. their genomes are the smallest recorded for any self-reproducing prokaryote. Mycoplasma . consisting of a circular. mycoplasmal genomes carry small amount of genes. into the cell membrane up to concentrations of 65% (for stabilizing their membranes).mainly cholesterol. In another mechanism of ATP generation. Phosphate acetyltransferase Acetyl CoA + Inorganic orthophosphate Acetyl PO4 + CoA Acetate kinase Acetyl PO4+ ADP Acetate + ATP There are some species which derive their energy by the hydrolysis of urea. The mycoplasmas are known to synthesise DNA. but not amino acids. double-stranded DNA molecule. Mycoplasmas represent a minimal life-form. having yielded to selective pressures to reduce gene number and genome size. which they obtain from the host. Because of their small size. or from the degradation of glucose.

living organism. express a small number of cell proteins. and energy metabolism.genetalium has the smallest known genome of any free. and they are dependent on a parasitic mode of life.074 bp). and in M. genetalium the G + C content is 32%. transcription and translation. DNA repair. particularly in the third position. genitalium G-37 (genome size 580. There is an apparent correlation between mycoplasmal growth rate and genome size: under optimal conditions. This gene content is about one-sixth the number of genes in Escherichia coli.394 bp) grows twice as fast as M.070 base pairs with a total of 470 coding regions. They possess no complete pathways for amino acids synthesis and degradation. mycoides SC. comprising of 580. The mycoplasmal genome is characterized by a low guanine- plus-cytosine content (18-40%). Mycoplasmas. or from a culture medium. pneumoniae M129 (genome size 816. which include genes required for DNA replication. Mycoplasmas are also characterised by preferential utilization of codons containing adenine and uracil. implying that these monomers must be obtained either from their hosts. M. it is 24%. an interesting feature found so far only in mycoplasmas and in non plant . cellular transport. in M. The universal stop codon UGA encodes for the amino acid tryptophan in many mycoplasmas. mycoides subsp. Their nutritional requirements are correspondingly complex. and lack many enzymatic activities and metabolic pathways. accordingly.

However.mitochondria. resulting in multi-nucleoid filaments. These multi-nucleoid filaments subsequently break into coccoid bodies. resulting in enhanced multiplication as shown in Fig. 1 Fig. which inhibit protein synthesis on prokaryotic ribosomes. Reproduction in Mycoplasma Mycoplasma reproduces by binary fission in which the parent normally splits into two cells. One more property which distinguishes mycoplasmas from the conventional eubacteria is resistance of mycoplasmal RNA polymerase to rifampicin. However.Binary fission in mycoplasmas . the cytokinesis frequently lags behind the genome replication. such as tetracyclines and chloramphenicol. the mycoplasmas are susceptible to antibiotics. 1 .

thus. which have lost their cell wall? The comparison of base sequence analysis of conserved ribosomal RNA molecules. Clostridium innocuum and C. favours the degenerative evolution hypothesis. During their evolution. particularly of the 16S rRNA type. suggesting that mycoplasmas represent evolutionarily degenerate eubacterial forms. and are phylogenetically most closely related to two clostridia. it poses some exciting questions. However. This analysis serves as a strong molecular evidence. for example (i) Do they represent the descendents of primitive bacteria that existed before the development of a peptidoglycan based wall. the mycoplasmas have evolved as a branch of the low-guanine- plus-cytosine containing gram positive bacteria. Their hypothesis is based on the evidence of marked phenotypic and genotypic variability among . which believe that mycoplasmas evolved from a variety of walled-bacteria and.. have a polyphyletic origin. there is another school of evolutionary thought. ramosum. resulting in minimal genomes.Phylogeny of mycoplasmas As far as phylogeny of Mycoplasmas is concerned. According to Woese et al. the mycoplasmas lost genes of many biosynthetic pathways. that have lost their cell wall. or (ii) Do they represent the evolutionarily reduced forms. Their genomes don’t carry genes for peptidoglycan-synthesis and amino-acid metabolism.

mycoplasmas. . Woese et al. upholds the monophyletic origin of mycoplasmas and attributes their great variety to the process of rapid evolution. characteristic of the group.