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So according to a PPT I'm reading, bacterial conjugation works by the two bacteria joining pili and exchanging plasmids. So how exactly do the plasmids get across the gap? If I understand this correctly, the pili are little hair-like things on the outside of the bacteria -- so unless the plasmids were actually able to somehow be pushed through the pili, there would be gap. Right?

The only other possibility I can think of would be that the membranes fused or something like that. But that comes with it's own whole set of problems.

How does this work?



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The donor cell retracts it pilus upon contact with another cell and both cells form a pore between the two cells, which allows the transfer of DNA. Take a look at the image, I think this makes it clearer (from the Wikipedia article on Pili):

enter image description here

This has even be seen in an electron microscope:

enter image description here

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