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  1. Bacterial growth is remarkably robust to environmental fluctuations, yet the mechanisms of growth-rate homeostasis are poorly understood. Here, we combine theory and experiment to infer mechanisms by which Escherichia coli adapts its growth rate in response to changes in osmolarity, a fundamental physicochemical property of the environment. The central tenet of our theoretical model is that cell-envelope expansion is only sensitive to local information, such as enzyme concentrations, cell-envelope curvature, and mechanical strain in the envelope. We constrained this model with quantitative measurements of the dynamics of E. coli elongation rate and cell width after hyperosmotic shock. Our analysis demonstrated that adaptive cell-envelope softening is a key process underlying growth-rate homeostasis. Furthermore, our model correctly predicted that softening does not occur above a critical hyperosmotic shock magnitude and precisely recapitulated the elongation-rate dynamics in response to shocks with magnitude larger than this threshold. Finally, we found that, to coordinately achieve growth-rate and cell-width homeostasis, cells employ direct feedback between cell-envelope curvature and envelope expansion. In sum, our analysis points to cellular mechanisms of bacterial growth-rate homeostasis and provides a practical theoretical framework for understanding this process.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 11, 2023
  2. Waldor, Matthew K. (Ed.)
    Conventional cuvette-based and microfluidics-based electroporation approaches for bacterial gene delivery have distinct advantages, but they are typically limited to relatively small sample volumes, reducing their utility for applications requiring high throughput such as the generation of mutant libraries. Here, we present a scalable, large-scale bacterial gene delivery approach enabled by a disposable, user-friendly microfluidic electroporation device requiring minimal device fabrication and straightforward operation. We demonstrate that the proposed device can outperform conventional cuvettes in a range of situations, including across Escherichia coli strains with a range of electroporation efficiencies, and we use its large-volume bacterial electroporation capability to generate a library of transposon mutants in the anaerobic gut commensal Bifidobacterium longum .
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 6, 2023
  3. Parsek, Matthew (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Many bacterial species typically live in complex three-dimensional biofilms, yet much remains unknown about differences in essential processes between nonbiofilm and biofilm lifestyles. Here, we created a CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) library of knockdown strains covering all known essential genes in the biofilm-forming Bacillus subtilis strain NCIB 3610 and investigated growth, biofilm colony wrinkling, and sporulation phenotypes of the knockdown library. First, we showed that gene essentiality is largely conserved between liquid and surface growth and between two media. Second, we quantified biofilm colony wrinkling using a custom image analysis algorithm and found that fatty acid synthesis and DNA gyrase knockdown strains exhibited increased wrinkling independent of biofilm matrix gene expression. Third, we designed a high-throughput screen to quantify sporulation efficiency after essential gene knockdown; we found that partial knockdowns of essential genes remained competent for sporulation in a sporulation-inducing medium, but knockdown of essential genes involved in fatty acid synthesis exhibited reduced sporulation efficiency in LB, a medium with generally lower levels of sporulation. We conclude that a subset of essential genes are particularly important for biofilm structure and sporulation/germination and suggest a previously unappreciated and multifaceted role for fatty acid synthesis in bacterial lifestyles and developmental processes. IMPORTANCEmore »For many bacteria, life typically involves growth in dense, three-dimensional communities called biofilms that contain cells with differentiated roles held together by extracellular matrix. To examine how essential gene function varies between vegetative growth and the developmental states of biofilm formation and sporulation, we created and screened a comprehensive library of strains using CRISPRi to knockdown expression of each essential gene in the biofilm-capable Bacillus subtilis strain 3610. High-throughput assays and computational algorithms identified a subset of essential genes involved in biofilm wrinkling and sporulation and indicated that fatty acid synthesis plays important and multifaceted roles in bacterial development.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 7, 2023
  4. Temperature impacts biological systems across all length and timescales. Cells and the enzymes that comprise them respond to temperature fluctuations on short timescales, and temperature can affect protein folding, the molecular composition of cells, and volume expansion. Entire ecosystems exhibit temperature-dependent behaviors, and global warming threatens to disrupt thermal homeostasis in microbes that are important for human and planetary health. Intriguingly, the growth rate of most species follows the Arrhenius law of equilibrium thermodynamics, with an activation energy similar to that of individual enzymes but with maximal growth rates and over temperature ranges that are species specific. In this review, we discuss how the temperature dependence of critical cellular processes, such as the central dogma and membrane fluidity, contributes to the temperature dependence of growth. We conclude with a discussion of adaptation to temperature shifts and the effects of temperature on evolution and on the properties of microbial ecosystems.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 9, 2023
  5. Across diverse microbiotas, species abundances vary in time with distinctive statistical behaviors that appear to generalize across hosts, but the origins and implications of these patterns remain unclear. Here, we show that many of these macroecological patterns can be quantitatively recapitulated by a simple class of consumer-resource models, in which the metabolic capabilities of different species are randomly drawn from a common statistical distribution. Our model parametrizes the consumer-resource properties of a community using only a small number of global parameters, including the total number of resources, typical resource fluctuations over time, and the average overlap in resource-consumption profiles across species. We show that variation in these macroscopic parameters strongly affects the time series statistics generated by the model, and we identify specific sets of global parameters that can recapitulate macroecological patterns across wide-ranging microbiotas, including the human gut, saliva, and vagina, as well as mouse gut and rice, without needing to specify microscopic details of resource consumption. These findings suggest that resource competition may be a dominant driver of community dynamics. Our work unifies numerous time series patterns under a simple model, and provides an accessible framework to infer macroscopic parameters of effective resource competition from longitudinal studies ofmore »microbial communities.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 11, 2023
  6. Abstract

    Despite the structural and functional information contained in the statistical coupling between pairs of residues in a protein, coevolution associated with function is often obscured by artifactual signals such as genetic drift, which shapes a protein’s phylogenetic history and gives rise to concurrent variation between protein sequences that is not driven by selection for function. Here, we introduce a background model for phylogenetic contributions of statistical coupling that separates the coevolution signal due to inter-clade and intra-clade sequence comparisons and demonstrate that coevolution can be measured on multiple phylogenetic timescales within a single protein. Our method, nested coevolution (NC), can be applied as an extension to any coevolution metric. We use NC to demonstrate that poorly conserved residues can nonetheless have important roles in protein function. Moreover, NC improved the structural-contact predictions of several coevolution-based methods, particularly in subsampled alignments with fewer sequences. NC also lowered the noise in detecting functional sectors of collectively coevolving residues. Sectors of coevolving residues identified after application of NC were more spatially compact and phylogenetically distinct from the rest of the protein, and strongly enriched for mutations that disrupt protein activity. Thus, our conceptualization of the phylogenetic separation of coevolution provides the potentialmore »to further elucidate relationships among protein evolution, function, and genetic diseases.

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  7. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2023
  8. Abstract

    The steady-state size of bacterial cells correlates with nutrient-determined growth rate. Here, we explore how rod-shaped bacterial cells regulate their morphology during rapid environmental changes. We quantify cellular dimensions throughout passage cycles of stationary-phase cells diluted into fresh medium and grown back to saturation. We find that cells exhibit characteristic dynamics in surface area to volume ratio (SA/V), which are conserved across genetic and chemical perturbations as well as across species and growth temperatures. A mathematical model with a single fitting parameter (the time delay between surface and volume synthesis) is quantitatively consistent with our SA/V experimental observations. The model supports that this time delay is due to differential expression of volume and surface-related genes, and that the first division after dilution occurs at a tightly controlled SA/V. Our minimal model thus provides insight into the connections between bacterial growth rate and cell shape in dynamic environments.