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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Zechuan Gong

PhD Student



Project Title: Cellular noise and adaptive responses in E.coli bacteria.


Decision-making is an essential hallmark of life. At the cellular level, decision-making is controlled by regulating how much genetic information is converted into physiological output. This process (gene-expression) enables cells to determine their fate and shape
their surroundings. Gene-expression can be surprisingly variable between cells (noise) potentially leading to divergent behaviour of individuals within a group of genetically identical cells; particularly relevant for survival of bacteria which are constantly exposed to fluctuating stressful environments. Gene-expression noise may enable bet-hedging where some cells are pre-adapted to sudden environmental change increasing their survival compared to other un-adapted members of the group. This may increase population fitness in unpredictable environments through risk-spreading among individuals. Yet to date it is still not clear whether gene-expression noise indeed results in substantial physiological differences between cells. To address this, we will combine molecular and cellular bacteriology with Raman spectroscopy to study physiological differences between individual bacterial cells and thus the level of bet-hedging within bacterial populations in response to membrane stress.



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