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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2006 Apr;4(4):259-71.

Phenotypic variation in bacteria: the role of feedback regulation.

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Molecular Genetics Group, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, University of Groningen, Kerklaan 30, 9751 NN Haren, The Netherlands.


To survive in rapidly changing environmental conditions, bacteria have evolved a diverse set of regulatory pathways that govern various adaptive responses. Recent research has reinforced the notion that bacteria use feedback-based circuitry to generate population heterogeneity in natural situations. Using artificial gene networks, it has been shown that a relatively simple 'wiring' of a bacterial genetic system can generate two or more stable subpopulations within an overall genetically homogeneous population. This review discusses the ubiquity of these processes throughout nature, as well as the presumed molecular mechanisms responsible for the heterogeneity observed in a selection of bacterial species.

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