Tuesday 14 September 2021

Bacterial survival under starvation conditions


A study of microbial populations under a prolonged period of starvation could help researchers answer questions pertaining to chronic infections, the functioning of bacteria in the environment and the persistence of life itself.


Researchers have looked at 100 populations of different bacteria in closed systems, which had no access to external food for 1,000 days. The team tracked how long they survived, and almost all of them persisted.


Energy-limited bacteria often enter a quiescent, or dormant, state that makes them less sensitive to drug treatments,


A major and unresolved question is how billions of microbial cells and thousands of microbial taxa coexist in a single gram of soil, often under harsh environmental conditions. One explanation supported by the research is that microbes seem to be well-adapted to feast-or-famine conditions, where resources can be in short supply for extended periods. This may help explain how complex microbial communities are maintained over time.


In the study, the researchers estimated that bacteria can also be extremely long-lived. Energy-limited bacteria can have lifespans that rival, and in some cases exceed, those of plants and animals. The study used survival analyses to estimate that some populations have extinction times of up to 100,000 years.


The persistence of microbes under such conditions likely involves dormancy and other mechanisms that conserve energy. In addition, the survival of cells in a closed system can be sustained by the ability of bacteria to "scavenge" their dead relatives. The recycling of dead cells also has the potential to fuel adaptive evolution.




William R. Shoemaker, Stuart E. Jones, Mario E. Muscarella, Megan G. Behringer, Brent K. Lehmkuhl, Jay T. Lennon. Microbial population dynamics and evolutionary outcomes under extreme energy limitation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021; 118 (33): e2101691118 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2101691118


Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (http://www.pharmamicroresources.com/)

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