Decision Making at a Subcellular Level Determines the Outcome of Bacteriophage Infection

Lanying Zeng, Samuel O. Skinner, Chenghang Zong, Jean Sippy, Michael Feiss, Ido Golding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When the process of cell-fate determination is examined at single-cell resolution, it is often observed that individual cells undergo different fates even when subject to identical conditions. This " noisy" phenotype is usually attributed to the inherent stochasticity of chemical reactions in the cell. Here we demonstrate how the observed single-cell heterogeneity can be explained by a cascade of decisions occurring at the subcellular level. We follow the postinfection decision in bacteriophage lambda at single-virus resolution, and show that a choice between lysis and lysogeny is first made at the level of the individual virus. The decisions by all viruses infecting a single cell are then integrated in a precise (noise-free) way, such that only a unanimous vote by all viruses leads to the establishment of lysogeny. By detecting and integrating over the subcellular " hidden variables," we are able to predict the level of noise measured at the single-cell level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)682-691
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2010


  • Cellbio
  • Microbio
  • Sysbio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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