1

Pili Chromosome Nucleoid Storage Flagellum

granule

3.4 The Cytoplasmic Membrane 53

Nucleoid DNA fibrils

Cytoplasm

3.4 The Cytoplasmic Membrane 53

Nucleoid DNA fibrils

Cytoplasm

Cell wall

Cell wall

The components of the prokaryotic cell have important consequences for human health. Recall that structures and processes unique to bacteria are potential targets for selective toxicity. By interfering with these attributes, bacteria can be killed or their growth inhibited without harming the human host. More importantly, the defense systems of our bodies have evolved to recognize specific bacterial surface components as the sign of danger. For example, certain cell wall components shared by nearly all bacteria are found nowhere else in nature. The body's defenses are poised to mount an attack against them. When these molecules that signify danger enter our body, our defense systems respond rapidly, generally eliminating the invader before it has a chance to multiply. Because of this swift response, the vast majority of bacteria cannot cause disease in a healthy person. Those that do are able to disguise their surface components or otherwise interfere with our immune defenses. This complex interaction between our immune defenses and microbes will be discussed in detail in later chapters.

Cell structures are also important in identifying bacteria. Certain components are characteristic of select groups of microbes and can be used as identifying markers.

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