What is it about?

In humans, repeated encounters with a wide variety of stimuli can reactivate specific neurons to produce long-term memories. We report here a multigenerational memory in Escherichia coli swarming motility, where bacteria “remember” their swarming experience for several generations. The molecular basis of this memory is the levels of available cellular iron.

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Why is it important?

Constantly changing environments present a challenge to the survival of all organisms. Response times during decision making can be critical for survival. Vertebrates use their nervous system for faster decision-making by storing information about their prior experiences. The process of storage and retrieval of information is called memory. We report here that even bacteria “remember” their previous experience for several generations by using cellular iron levels as a form of memory. Given the central role of iron in cellular metabolism, an iron-based memory might offer the advantage of providing a hub connecting various stress responses such as antibiotic survival and biofilms.


The impetus for experiments performed is this study originated from a serendipitous observation which was the result of a 'wrongly performed' experiment.

Souvik Bhattacharyya Bhattacharyya
University of Texas at Austin

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: A heritable iron memory enables decision-making in Escherichia coli, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2309082120.
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