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
Issue number2
Early online date1-Nov-2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2022


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

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