Bacillus subtilis, a type of bacteria, has the power to come back from the dead- sort of.

At some point in their short lives, Bacillus subtilis bacteria become dormant. A recent report and study examined what causes Bacillus subtilis to “revive” themselves. As I mentioned before, the Bacillus subtilis cells go dormant. This just means it goes through a period of inactivity. Dormancy isn’t unique to Bacillus subtilis. Another group of cells that can lie dormant for a long period of time are cancer cells. However, while scientists can only predict what causes cancer cells’ dormancy and awakening, a study has been done to figure out how Bacillus subtilis withdraw from this state.

Being a bacterium, the Bacillus subtilis is a prokaryote, which, as we learned in AP Biology, means that is a single celled organism with no nucleus. The Bacillus subtilis falls under the category of bacteria that forms spores to protect themselves from threatening or potentially dangerous situations.

Bacillus subtilis Spore


While the cell itself may be dormant and have no energy, the spores’ potassium ions (positively charged) can move around without using energy, which is why Gürol Süel and her team of researched deduced that the potassium ions is what “revives” the cells. Tracking the cell’s potassium ions’ motion activity, the team saw that as the ions moved out of the spore’s core, the cell became more electronegative, provoking Bacillus subtilis‘ “awakening” (growth).

Can Bacillus subtilis really die and come back to life? Well, no. But due to its unique spores and potassium ions reviving its dormant state, it’s not too far off.

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