The research, which appears in Evolution: International Journal of Organic Evolution, was conducted by scientists at New York University and the University of Tokyo.
When bacterial cells age, their capacity for reproduction is reduced. Individual cells within populations are subject to the force of selection, which results from differences in growth rates. Broadly speaking, growing populations are dominated by relatively young cells. A population's age structure, however, depends sensitively on the interplay between selection and the reproductive capacities of the cells.
The researchers sought to understand how changes in cells' reproductive capacity would affect the population's growth rate. This question dates back to seminal research in population genetics by Ronald Fisher in the 1930s and William Hamilton in the 1960s. Typically, the answer is indirect, and relies on a measured life table and reproductive capacity, which takes into account survival and birth rates.
The NYU and University of Tokyo researchers hypothesized that a more direct gauge would be to examine the bacteria's lineages—their history over several generations. In other words, they proposed looking backward several generations into the population's tree of cell divisions. This allowed them to directly measure the response of the bacteria's growth rate to age-specific changes in mortality and reproductive capacity.
"The force of selection within populations leaves key signatures in the population's lineage tree," said Edo Kussell, a professor of biology at NYU's Center for Genomics and Systems Biology and the study's corresponding author. "Theory allows us to interpret these in powerful ways. For instance, we found that how frequently a given age is observed along lineages is a direct reporter of how important that age is to the population's growth rate. This would allow us to predict the success or failure of mutant bacteria, which age differently from normal ones."
Using experimental data from laboratory populations of E. coli, the researchers confirmed several theoretical predictions. The article's other co-authors were Yuichi Wakamoto of the University of Tokyo and the Japan Science and Technology Agency and Alexander Grosberg, a professor in NYU's Department of Physics and its Center for Soft Matter Research.
The work builds upon a previously published paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in which Kussell and co-author Stanislas Leibler of Rockefeller University offered a way to infer the behavior of individual cells from population-level measurements.
One of the behaviors they considered is known as stochastic switching, a strategy in which cells randomly activate certain genes in order to survive. Notably, pathogenic bacteria, which cause disease in both humans and animals, engage in stochastic switching, resulting in alternative cellular states that improve the bacteria's ability to survive. The cells best suited for given conditions survive while others die off—another example of selection within populations. Understanding what prompts this type of cellular change in bacteria, and which strains are more sustainable than others, could then lead to alternative methods to curb bacterial growth.
The study centered on understanding two types of cellular strategies—responsive switching, in which cells change their state by reacting to environmental change, and stochastic switching, in which cells randomly activate certain genes, independent of external forces. Within a population, however, it is difficult to detect which strategy is being used—when cells change behavior, are they responding to their environment or is the change random?
Kussell and Leibler sought to develop a method that could disentangle these strategies. They showed that individual histories of cells—their lineages—would reveal differences between stochastic and responsive switching.
"Since stochastic switching organisms rely on selection to survive, we expected that if we could measure the strength of selection, we could distinguish the two strategies," Kussell said. "Once again, selection leaves a key signature in the population's lineage tree. In this case, the signature is the variance in cell divisions between lineages. If we measure that, then we can tell which strategy the cells are using internally."
The researchers simulated bacteria growing under fluctuating environmental conditions, and applied their lineage-based tests. This allowed them to show that the lineage tree indeed contains sufficient information to distinguish the two cellular strategies.
The importance of stochastic switching has recently been demonstrated in populations of cancer cells. With improved lineage tracking tools for cancer cells, it may soon become possible to apply some of the ideas that Kussell and co-workers have been developing in the bacterial context, also in other systems, such as tumor and stem cell populations.
James Devitt | EurekAlert!
The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
22.11.2017 | Life Sciences
22.11.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.11.2017 | Life Sciences