Anomalous spatial redistribution of competing bacteria under starvation conditions

Guillaume Lambert, David Liao, Saurabh Vyawahare, Robert H. Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Bacterial cells evolved under prolonged stress often have a growth advantage in stationary phase (GASP); we expect GASP cells to maintain a proliferative state and dominate wild-type cells during starvation, especially when nutrients are limited and the medium has been conditioned. However, when we compete GASP mutants against wild-type cells in a chain of microfluidic microhabitat patches (MHPs) with alternating nutrient-rich and nutrient-limited regions, we observe the reverse effect: wild-type cells achieve maximum relative density under nutrient-limited conditions, while GASP cells dominate nutrient-rich regions. We explain this surprising observation in terms of ideal free distributions, where we show that wild-type cells maximize their fitness at high cell density by redistributing themselves to sparsely populated MHPs. At the microscopic level, we describe how biofilm formation also contributes to the population redistribution. We conclude by discussing the implications of these results for social interactions of more complex organisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1878-1883
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology


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