Microbial competition: Escherichia coli mutants that take over stationary phase cultures

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Science  19 Mar 1993:
Vol. 259, Issue 5102, pp. 1757-1760
DOI: 10.1126/science.7681219


Many microorganisms, including Escherichia coli, can survive extended periods of starvation. The properties of cells that survived prolonged incubation in stationary phase were studied by mixture of 10-day-old (aged) cultures with 1-day-old (young) cultures of the same strain of Escherichia coli. Mutants from the aged cultures that could grow eventually took over the population, which resulted in the death of the cells from the young cultures. This phenotype was conferred by mutations in rpoS, which encodes a putative stationary phase-specific sigma factor. These rapid population shifts have implications for the studies of microbial evolution and ecology.

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