Biophysics Journal Club

Microbial population dynamics and evolutionary outcomes under extreme energy limitation

Zak Frentz, SFU Physics
Location: P8445.2

Wednesday, 29 June 2022 12:30PM PDT


"Microbial population dynamics and evolutionary outcomes under extreme energy limitation"

by Shoemaker et al.

PNAS 118 (33) e2101691118 (2021)


Author abstract: Microorganisms commonly inhabit energy-limited ecosystems where cellular maintenance and reproduction is highly constrained. To gain insight into how individuals persist under such conditions, we derived demographic parameters from a collection of 21 heterotrophic bacterial taxa by censusing 100 populations in an effectively closed system for 1,000 d. All but one taxon survived prolonged resource scarcity, yielding estimated times to extinction ranging over four orders of magnitude from 100 to 105 y. Our findings corroborate reports of long-lived bacteria recovered from ancient environmental samples, while providing insight into mechanisms of persistence. As death rates declined over time, lifespan was extended through the scavenging of dead cells. Although reproduction was suppressed in the absence of exogenous resources, populations continued to evolve. Hundreds of mutations were acquired, contributing to genome-wide signatures of purifying selection as well as molecular signals of adaptation. Consistent ecological and evolutionary dynamics indicate that distantly related bacteria respond to energy limitation in a similar and predictable manner, which likely contributes to the stability and robustness of microbial life.