Aging of a bacterial colony enforces the evolvement of nondifferentiating mutants

Rachel Hashuel, Sigal Ben-Yehuda*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Bacteria in nature are known to survive for long periods under restricting conditions, mainly by reducing their growth rate and metabolic activity. Here, we uncover a novel strategy utilized by bacterial cells to resist aging by propagating rather than halting division. Bacterial aging was monitored by inspecting colonies of the Gram-positive soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis, which is capable of differentiating into various cell types under nutrient exhaustion. We revealed that after days of incubation, rejuvenating subpopulations, arrayed over the mother colony, emerged. These subpopulations were found to harbor mutations in a variety of genes, restricting the ability of the cells to differentiate. Surprisingly, even mutations that are not classically designated to developmental pathways, concluded in differentiation deficiency, indicating that multiple paths can reach this same outcome. We provide evidence that the evolved mutants continue to divide under conditions that favor entry into quiescence, hence becoming abundant within the aging population. The occurrence of such nondifferentiating mutants could impact bacterial population dynamics in natural niches.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere01414-19
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Hashuel and Ben-Yehuda.


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