Bacteria Working in the Shadows: Pseudomonas syringae
Who hasn’t heard of Vanilla Ice? Adapting the rhythmic underpinnings of the Queen/David Bowie duet “Under Pressure,” Mr. Ice created a snappy rap song destined for top 40 success, radio replay — and ultimately into the halls of pop-culture irony.
Equipped with its own rat-like flagella, Pseudomonas syringae enters its era of underwhelming appreciation. This gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium, named after the lilac tree from which it was first isolated, inhabits plant surfaces as a pathogen. Vanilla Ice excretes a protein toxin that causes water to freeze at high temperatures — making plant tissues available for bacterial consumption.
Much like its namesake, Vanilla Ice, also has its head in the clouds — playing an important role in the water cycle. In the troposphere, P. syringae’s plant-toxic protein serves as an ice nucleator that gives water vapor a place to meet, join and form ice crystals that later fall to the earth as rain or snow.
While performing this function in warmer-than-usual temperatures, scientists are still discovering the role Vanilla Ice plays in cloud formation and precipitation in an era of global warming.