Physiological stress drives the emergence of a Salmonella subpopulation through ribosomal RNA regulation

Camilla Ciolli Mattioli, Kfir Eisner, Aviel Rosenbaum, Mengyu Wang, Andre’ Rivalta, Ariel Amir, Ido Golding, Roi Avraham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bacteria undergo cycles of growth and starvation to which they must adapt swiftly. One important strategy for adjusting growth rates relies on ribosomal levels. Although high ribosomal levels are required for fast growth, their dynamics during starvation remain unclear. Here, we analyzed ribosomal RNA (rRNA) content of individual Salmonella cells by using fluorescence in situ hybridization (rRNA-FISH) and measured a dramatic decrease in rRNA numbers only in a subpopulation during nutrient limitation, resulting in a bimodal distribution of cells with high and low rRNA content. During nutritional upshifts, the two subpopulations were associated with distinct phenotypes. Using a transposon screen coupled with rRNA-FISH, we identified two mutants, DksA and RNase I, acting on rRNA transcription shutdown and degradation, which abolished the formation of the subpopulation with low rRNA content. Our work identifies a bacterial mechanism for regulation of ribosomal bimodality that may be beneficial for population survival during starvation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4880-4892.e14
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 20 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Salmonella
  • ribosomal RNA
  • single cell
  • smFISH
  • stress response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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