Diversity in Starvation Survival Strategies and Outcomes among Heterotrophic Proteobacteria

Megan Bergkessel (Lead / Corresponding author), Laurent Delavaine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
67 Downloads (Pure)


Heterotrophic Proteobacteria are versatile opportunists that have been extensively studied as model organisms in the laboratory, as both pathogens and beneficial symbionts of plants and animals, and as ubiquitous organisms found free-living in many environments. Succeeding in these niches requires an ability to persist for potentially long periods of time in growth-arrested states when essential nutrients become limiting. The tendency of these bacteria to grow in dense biofilm communities frequently leads to the development of steep nutrient gradients and deprivation of interior cells even when the environment is nutrient rich. Surviving within host environments also likely requires tolerating growth arrest due to the host limiting access to nutrients and transitioning between hosts may require a period of survival in a nutrient-poor environment. Interventions to maximise plant-beneficial activities and minimise infections by bacteria will require a better understanding of metabolic and regulatory networks that contribute to starvation survival, and how these networks function in diverse organisms. Here we focus on carbon starvation as a growth-arresting condition that limits availability not only of substrates for biosynthesis but also of energy for ongoing maintenance of the electrochemical gradient across the cell envelope and cellular integrity. We first review models for studying bacterial starvation and known strategies that contribute to starvation survival. We then present the results of a survey of carbon starvation survival strategies and outcomes in ten bacterial strains, including representatives from the orders Enterobacterales and Pseudomonadales (both Gammaproteobacteria) and Burkholderiales (Betaproteobacteria). Finally, we examine differences in gene content between the highest and lowest survivors to identify metabolic and regulatory adaptations that may contribute to differences in starvation survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-162
Number of pages17
JournalMicrobial Physiology
Issue number2
Early online date31 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Carbon starvation
  • Growth arrest
  • Proteobacteria
  • Genomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Religious studies
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Biotechnology
  • Cell Biology
  • Microbiology


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