In the past decades, numerous instances of phenotypic diversity were observed in clonal microbial populations, particularly, on the gene expression level. Much less is, however, known about phenotypic differences that occur on the level of metabolism. This is likely explained by the fact that experimental tools probing metabolism of single cells are still at an early stage of development. Here, we review recent exciting discoveries that point out different causes for metabolic heterogeneity within clonal microbial populations. These causes range from ecological factors and cell-inherent dynamics in constant environments to molecular noise in gene expression that propagates into metabolism. Furthermore, we provide an overview of current methods to quantify the levels of metabolites and biomass components in single cells.
- Journal Article