The quick and the dead: microbial demography at the yeast thermal limit.
The niche of microorganisms is determined by where their populations can expand. Populations can fail to grow because of high death or low birth rates, but these are challenging to measure in microorganisms. We developed a novel technique that enables single-cell measurement of age-structured birth and death rates in the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and used this method to study responses to heat stress in a genetically diverse panel of strains. We find that individual cells show significant heterogeneity in their rates of birth and death during heat stress. Genotype-by-environment effects on processes that regulate asymmetric cell division contribute to this heterogeneity. These lead to either premature senescence or early life mortality during heat stress, and we find that a mitochondrial inheritance defect explains the early life mortality phenotype of one of the strains we studied. This study demonstrates how the interplay of physiology, genetic variation and environmental variables influence where microbial populations survive and flourish.
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