What is it about?

We demonstrate that a leaf microbe - Methylobacterium extorquens - can survive a lethal dose of the toxin, formaldehyde, purely because some cells are phenotypically "tolerant" to heightened concentrations. This does not involve mutations but does lead to a distinct gene expression profile. Our mathematical model of this process suggested that cells have both some degree of cross-generational memory and some degree of being able to actively respond to the stress.

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Why is it important?

Increasingly it has been found that non-genetic differences between single cells impact biology, whether microbes or eukaryotic cases like cancers. It is critical to understand how and why these differences arise and how they impact selection upon populations.

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This page is a summary of: Microbial phenotypic heterogeneity in response to a metabolic toxin: Continuous, dynamically shifting distribution of formaldehyde tolerance in Methylobacterium extorquens populations, PLoS Genetics, November 2019, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008458.
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