Whenever a genetically homogenous population of bacterial cells is exposed to antibiotics, a tiny fraction of cells survives the treatment, the phenomenon known as bacterial persistence [G.L. Hobby et al., Exp. Biol. Med. 50, 281–285 (1942); J. Bigger, The Lancet 244, 497–500 (1944)]. Despite its biomedical relevance, the origin of the phenomenon is still unknown, and as a rare, phenotypically resistant subpopulation, persisters are notoriously hard to study and define. Using computerized tracking we show that persisters are small at birth and slowly replicating. We also determine that the high-persister mutant strain of Escherichia coli, HipQ, is associated with the phenotype of reduced phenotypic inheritance (RPI). We identify the gene responsible for RPI, ydcI, which encodes a transcription factor, and propose a mechanism whereby loss of phenotypic inheritance causes increased frequency of persisters. These results provide insight into the generation and maintenance of phenotypic variation and provide potential targets for the development of therapeutic strategies that tackle persistence in bacterial infections.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Feb 25 2020|
- Antibiotic resistance
- Systems biology
ASJC Scopus subject areas