A dormancy state in nonspore-forming bacteria

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Abstract

While cultivation is a convenient way of proliferating and understanding bacteria, studies have shown the formation of nonculturable cells in nonspore-forming bacteria in response to environmental stress and thus in turn have generated immense interest. Whether these cells are in a state of dormancy or in a stage preceding cell death has been considered of paramount importance for the past couple of decades. In this study, osmotic-stress-induced dormant bacterial cells were separated by cell sorting and revived by osmotic down-shift in the absence of nutrients, source(s) that potentially could supply nutrients, and/or the external addition of resuscitation factor(s). Reversal of dormancy followed a definite pattern akin to population asynchrony of dormant cells, and the phenomenon was observed across three species, namely, Enterobacter sp. strain mcp11b, Klebsiella pneumonia strain mcp11d and Escherichia coli. In addition, our study precisely forecasted the presence of multiple subpopulations in dormant cells, which is explained by an emerging theory of survival mechanisms in stressful environments. These observations reveal that the state of dormancy induced by environmental stress in these nonspore-forming bacteria is “reversible” and also implies that it is an orderly and spontaneous adaptation to circumvent adverse conditions.

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