It has long been noted that batch cultures inoculated with resting bacteria exhibit a progression of growth phases traditionally labeled lag, exponential, pre-stationary and stationary. However, a detailed molecular description of the mechanisms controlling the transitions between these phases is lacking. A core circuit, formed by a subset of regulatory interactions involving five global transcription factors (FIS, HNS, IHF, RpoS and GadX), has been identified by correlating information from the well- established transcriptional regulatory network of Escherichia coli and genome-wide expression data from cultures in these different growth phases. We propose a functional role for this circuit in controlling progression through these phases. Two alternative hypotheses for controlling the transition between the growth phases are first, a continuous graded adjustment to changing environmental conditions, and second, a discontinuous hysteretic switch at critical thresholds between growth phases. We formulate a simple mathematical model of the core circuit, consisting of differential equations based on the power-law formalism, and show by mathematical and computer-assisted analysis that there are critical conditions among the parameters of the model that can lead to hysteretic switch behavior, which - if validated experimentally - would suggest that the transitions between different growth phases might be analogous to cellular differentiation. Based on these provocative results, we propose experiments to test the alternative hypotheses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)