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Sci Rep. 2016 Apr 6;6:24055. doi: 10.1038/srep24055.

Growth resumption from stationary phase reveals memory in Escherichia coli cultures.

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Institute of Technology, University of Tartu, Tartu 50411, Estonia.


Frequent changes in nutrient availability often result in repeated cycles of bacterial growth and dormancy. The timing of growth resumption can differ among isogenic cells and delayed growth resumption can lead to antibiotic tolerant persisters. Here we describe a correlation between the timing of entry into stationary phase and resuming growth in the next period of cell proliferation. E. coli cells can follow a last in first out rule: the last ones to shut down their metabolism in the beginning of stationary phase are the first to recover in response to nutrients. This memory effect can last for several days in stationary phase and is not influenced by environmental changes. We observe that the speed and heterogeneity of growth resumption depends on the carbon source. A good carbon source (glucose) can promote rapid growth resumption even at low concentrations, and is seen to act more like a signal than a growth substrate. Heterogeneous growth resumption can protect the population from adverse effect of stress, investigated here using heat-shock, because the stress-resilient dormant cells are always present.

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