Asymmetric Damage Segregation Constitutes an Emergent Population-Level Stress Reseponse


  • Lineages and growth rate distributions reveal effects of ADS
  • Asymmetry of segregation is dependent on single-cell damage
  • The population benefit of ADS increases with stress


Asymmetric damage segregation (ADS) is a mechanism for increasing population fitness through non-random, asymmetric partitioning of damaged macromolecules at cell division. ADS has been reported across multiple organisms, though the measured effects on fitness of individuals are often small. Here, we introduce a cell-lineage-based framework that quantifies the population-wide effects of ADS and then verify our results experimentally in E. coli under heat and antibiotic stress. Using an experimentally validated mathematical model, we find that the beneficial effect of ADS increases with stress. In effect, low-damage subpopulations divide faster and amplify within the population acting like a positive feedback loop whose strength scales with stress. Analysis of protein aggregates shows that the degree of asymmetric inheritance is damage dependent in single cells. Together our results indicate that, despite small effects in single cell, ADS exerts a strong beneficial effect on the population level and arises from the redistribution of damage within a population, through both single-cell and population-level feedback. [ more… ]