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Bistability, Epigenetics, and Bet-Hedging in Bacteria

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jan-Willem Veening


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Clonal populations of microbial cells often show a high degree of phenotypic variability under homogeneous conditions. Stochastic fluctuations in the cellular components that determine cellular states can cause two distinct subpopulations, a property called bistability Phenotypic heterogeneity can be readily obtained by interlinking multiple gene regulatory pathways, effectively resulting in a genetic logic-ANTI gate. Although switching between states can occur within the cells' lifetime, cells can also pass their cellular state over to the next generation by a mechanism known as epigenetic inheritance and thus perpetuate the phenotypic state. Importantly, heterogeneous populations can demonstrate increased fitness compared with homogeneous populations. This suggests that microbial cells employ bet-hedging strategies to maximize survival. Here, we discuss the possible roles of interlinked bistable networks, epigenetic inheritance, and bet-hedging in bacteria.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Veening JW, Smits WK, Kuipers OP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Annual Review of Microbiology

Year: 2008

Volume: 62

Pages: 193-210

Print publication date: 01/01/2008

ISSN (print): 0066-4227

ISSN (electronic): 1545-3251

Publisher: Annual Reviews


DOI: 10.1146/annurev.micro.62.081307.163002


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