Eric Rubin, Harvard University
One of These Things is Not Like the Other One: Phenotypica Heterogeneity in Mycobacteria
Diverse populations offer organisms an increased ability to survive when encountering stress. Unlike many rod-shaped organisms, mycobacteria are quite heterogeneous for size and shape. We find that this is reflected in metabolic heterogeneity, a characteristic important at the level of single cell survival in the face of treatment with the drug rifampin. This phenotypic heterogeneity is governed, in part, by the gene lamA. Mutants that lack lamA become less varied and are more rapidly killed by rifampin and antibiotics that target the cell wall. The encoded protein, LamA, has a role in establishing asymmetry at the time of cell division.