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A riboswitch gives rise to multi-generational phenotypic heterogeneity in an auxotrophic bacterium


Hernandez-Valdes, Jhonatan A; van Gestel, Jordi; Kuipers, Oscar P (2020). A riboswitch gives rise to multi-generational phenotypic heterogeneity in an auxotrophic bacterium. Nature Communications, 11(1):1203.

Abstract

Auxotrophy, the inability to produce an organic compound essential for growth, is widespread among bacteria. Auxotrophic bacteria rely on transporters to acquire these compounds from their environment. Here, we study the expression of both low- and high-affinity transporters of the costly amino acid methionine in an auxotrophic lactic acid bacterium, Lactococcus lactis. We show that the high-affinity transporter (Met-transporter) is heterogeneously expressed at low methionine concentrations, resulting in two isogenic subpopulations that sequester methionine in different ways: one subpopulation primarily relies on the high-affinity transporter (high expression of the Met-transporter) and the other subpopulation primarily relies on the low-affinity transporter (low expression of the Met-transporter). The phenotypic heterogeneity is remarkably stable, inherited for tens of generations, and apparent at the colony level. This heterogeneity results from a T-box riboswitch in the promoter region of the met operon encoding the high-affinity Met-transporter. We hypothesize that T-box riboswitches, which are commonly found in the Lactobacillales, may play as-yet unexplored roles in the predominantly auxotrophic lifestyle of these bacteria.

Abstract

Auxotrophy, the inability to produce an organic compound essential for growth, is widespread among bacteria. Auxotrophic bacteria rely on transporters to acquire these compounds from their environment. Here, we study the expression of both low- and high-affinity transporters of the costly amino acid methionine in an auxotrophic lactic acid bacterium, Lactococcus lactis. We show that the high-affinity transporter (Met-transporter) is heterogeneously expressed at low methionine concentrations, resulting in two isogenic subpopulations that sequester methionine in different ways: one subpopulation primarily relies on the high-affinity transporter (high expression of the Met-transporter) and the other subpopulation primarily relies on the low-affinity transporter (low expression of the Met-transporter). The phenotypic heterogeneity is remarkably stable, inherited for tens of generations, and apparent at the colony level. This heterogeneity results from a T-box riboswitch in the promoter region of the met operon encoding the high-affinity Met-transporter. We hypothesize that T-box riboswitches, which are commonly found in the Lactobacillales, may play as-yet unexplored roles in the predominantly auxotrophic lifestyle of these bacteria.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Scopus Subject Areas:Physical Sciences > General Chemistry
Life Sciences > General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Physical Sciences > General Physics and Astronomy
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, General Physics and Astronomy, General Chemistry
Language:English
Date:1 December 2020
Deposited On:14 Sep 2020 14:04
Last Modified:15 Sep 2020 20:00
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2041-1723
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-15017-1
PubMed ID:32139702

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