Dormancy is not necessary or sufficient for bacterial persistence

Mehmet A. Orman, Mark P. Brynildsen

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184 Scopus citations


The antibiotic tolerances of bacterial persisters have been attributed to transient dormancy. While persisters have been observed to be growth inhibited prior to antibiotic exposure, we sought to determine whether such a trait was essential to the phenotype. Furthermore, we sought to provide direct experimental evidence of the persister metabolic state so as to determine whether the common assumption of metabolic inactivity was valid. Using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), a fluorescent indicator of cell division, a fluorescent measure of metabolic activity, and persistence assays, we found that bacteria that are rapidly growing prior to antibiotic exposure can give rise to persisters and that a lack of replication or low metabolic activity prior to antibiotic treatment simply increases the likelihood that a cell is a persister. Interestingly, a lack of significant growth or metabolic activity does not guarantee persistence, as the majority of even "dormant" subpopulations (>99%) were not persisters. These data suggest that persistence is far more complex than dormancy and point to additional characteristics needed to define the persister phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3230-3239
Number of pages10
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology


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