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Published May 29, 2018 | public
Journal Article Open

Metabolic interactions between dynamic bacterial subpopulations


Individual microbial species are known to occupy distinct metabolic niches within multi-species communities. However, it has remained largely unclear whether metabolic specialization can similarly occur within a clonal bacterial population. More specifically, it is not clear what functions such specialization could provide and how specialization could be coordinated dynamically. Here, we show that exponentially growing Bacillus subtilis cultures divide into distinct interacting metabolic subpopulations, including one population that produces acetate, and another population that differentially expresses metabolic genes for the production of acetoin, a pH-neutral storage molecule. These subpopulations exhibit distinct growth rates and dynamic interconversion between states. Furthermore, acetate concentration influences the relative sizes of the different subpopulations. These results show that clonal populations can use metabolic specialization to control the environment through a process of dynamic, environmentally-sensitive state-switching.

Additional Information

© 2018 Rosenthal et al. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited. Received: 25 October 2017; Accepted: 21 May 2018; Published: 29 May 2018. We thank Jared Leadbetter, Ned Wingreen, Xinning Zhang, Avigdor Eldar, Joe Levine, Eric Matson, Mark Budde, Joe Markson, and members of the Elowitz lab for discussions and comments. This research was supported by the by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Biochronicity Grant DARPA-BAA-11–66, NIH R01GM079771, National Science Foundation grant 1547056, and a Caltech CEMI (Center for Environmental Microbial Interactions at Caltech Interactions) grant (AZR). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication. Author contributions: Adam Z Rosenthal, Michael B Elowitz, Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Writing—original draft, Writing—review and editing; Yutao Qi, Sahand Hormoz, Sophia Hsin-Jung Li, Formal analysis; Jin Park, Methodology. Data availability: Data are included in supplementary files.

Attached Files

Submitted - 208686.full.pdf

Supplemental Material - elife-33099-supp-v1.zip

Published - elife-33099-v2.pdf


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