Diversity of bet-hedging strategies in microbial communities-Recent cases and insights

Luiza P. Morawska, Jhonatan A. Hernandez-Valdes, Oscar P. Kuipers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Microbial communities are continuously exposed to unpredictable changes in their environment. To thrive in such dynamic habitats, microorganisms have developed the ability to readily switch phenotypes, resulting in a number of differently adapted subpopulations expressing various traits. In evolutionary biology, a particular case of phenotypic heterogeneity that evolved in an unpredictably changing environment has been defined as bet-hedging. Bet-hedging is a risk-spreading strategy where isogenic populations stochastically (randomly) diversify their phenotypes, often resulting in maladapted individuals that suffer lower reproductive success. This fitness trade-off in a specific environment may have a selective advantage upon the sudden environmental shift. Thus, a bet-hedging strategy allows populations to persist in very dynamic habitats, but with a particular fitness cost. In recent years, numerous examples of phenotypic heterogeneity in different microorganisms have been observed, some suggesting bet-hedging. Here, we highlight the latest reports concerning bet-hedging phenomena in various microorganisms to show how versatile this strategy is within the microbial realms.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1544
Number of pages15
JournalWires mechanisms of disease
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1-Nov-2021


  • adaptation
  • bet-hedging
  • evolutionary strategy
  • persisters
  • phenotypic heterogeneity

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