Persistence: Mechanisms for triggering and enhancing phenotypic variability

N. Q. Balaban*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


When microorganisms are exposed to lethal agents, the initial exponential decay in survival is typically followed by a slower decrease. This tailing of the survival curve is due to persister cells that have differentiated into phenotypes with reduced sensitivity to the lethal agent. We review the environmental factors that have been shown to trigger such differentiation processes, as well as the network motifs that enable the co-existence of persistent and nonpersistent cells within genetically uniform populations. Threshold amplification of noise and bi-stability from positive feedback emerge as key motifs underlying persistence.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)768-775
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Opinion in Genetics and Development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge useful discussions with Ofer Biham, U Alon, and R Losick. We thank Orit Gefen, Ofer Fridman and all the members of the Balaban lab for comments and suggestions. We acknowledge the funding from the European Research Council .


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