Diversity of microbial growth strategies in a limited nutrient world

Sep 17, 2013

The budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is a prime organism for studying fundamental cellular processes, with the functions of many proteins important in the cell cycle and signaling networks found in human biology having first been discovered in yeast.

Now, scientists from New York University have now developed a sophisticated assay to track cell growth at very low nutrient concentrations. The assay uses time-lapse microscopy to monitor individual undergoing a small number of divisions to form microcolonies. The assay can measure the lag times and growth rates of as many as 80,000 individual microcolonies in a single 24-hour experiment, opening up a powerful new high-throughput tool to study the complex interplay between cell growth, division and metabolism under environmental conditions that are likely to be ecologically relevant but had previously been difficult to study in the laboratory.

The researchers studied growth rates and lag times in both lab strains and wild yeast by varying the amount of its prime carbon , glucose. They confirmed the prediction made over 60 years ago by Noble-prize-winning biologist Jacques Monod regarding changes in microbial growth rates with limited nutrients (the Monod equation). They also found significant differences among strains in both the average lag response (the amount of time it takes to transition from cell to restarting cell growth) and average growth rates in response to different environmental conditions.

In addition to average differences between strains and conditions, the powerful assay revealed among cells of the same strain in the same environment. Moreover, yeast strains differed in their variances in growth rate. According to the study's lead author, Naomi Ziv, "Heterogeneity among genetically identical cells in the same environment is a topic of increasing interest in biology and medicine. The different strain variances we see suggest that the extent of nongenetic heterogeneity is itself genetically determined."

Further investigations could pave the way to a more complete understanding of the genetics and metabolomics of cell growth in yeast and the underlying mechanisms relevant to other settings in which cells face challenging conditions, such as cancer progression and the evolution of drug resistance.

Explore further: Life's extremists may be an untapped source of antibacterial drugs

More information: To access the full online article: http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/08/11/molbev.mst138.abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A microbe's trick for staying young

Sep 12, 2013

Researchers have discovered a microbe that stays forever young by rejuvenating every time it reproduces. The findings, published in Current Biology, provide fundamental insights into the mechanisms of aging.

Unlocking secrets of cell reproduction

May 23, 2013

Research published in Open Biology today identifies, for the first time, nearly all the genes required for reproduction of a cell in a living organism.

Recommended for you

Cohesin molecule safeguards cell division

Nov 21, 2014

The cohesin molecule ensures the proper distribution of DNA during cell division. Scientists at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna can now prove the concept of its carabiner-like ...

Nail stem cells prove more versatile than press ons

Nov 21, 2014

There are plenty of body parts that don't grow back when you lose them. Nails are an exception, and a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reveals some of the r ...

Scientists develop 3-D model of regulator protein bax

Nov 21, 2014

Scientists at Freie Universität Berlin, the University of Tubingen, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) provide a new 3D model of the protein Bax, a key regulator of cell death. When active, Bax ...

Researchers unwind the mysteries of the cellular clock

Nov 20, 2014

Human existence is basically circadian. Most of us wake in the morning, sleep in the evening, and eat in between. Body temperature, metabolism, and hormone levels all fluctuate throughout the day, and it ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.