2 Scopus citations


Nutrient shifts from glycolytic-to-gluconeogenic carbon sources can create large sub-populations of extremely antibiotic tolerant bacteria, called persisters. Positive feedback in Escherichia coli central metabolism was believed to play a key role in the formation of persister cells. To examine whether positive feedback in nutrient transport can also support high persistence to β-lactams, we performed nutrient shifts for E. coli from gluconeogenic carbon sources to fatty acid (FA). We observed tri-phasic antibiotic killing kinetics characterized by a transient period of high antibiotic tolerance, followed by rapid killing then a slower persister-killing phase. The duration of transient tolerance (3–44 h) varies with pre-shift carbon source and correlates strongly with the time needed to accumulate the FA degradation enzyme FadD after the shift. Additionally, FadD accumulation time and thus transient tolerance time can be reduced by induction of the glyoxylate bypass prior to switching, highlighting that two interacting feedback loops simultaneously control the length of transient tolerance. Our results demonstrate that nutrient switches along with positive feedback are not sufficient to trigger persistence in a majority of the population but instead triggers only a temporary tolerance. Additionally, our results demonstrate that the pre-shift metabolic state determines the duration of transient tolerance and that supplying glyoxylate can facilitate antibiotic killing of bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Article number854272
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - Mar 11 2022


  • antibiotic tolerance
  • bacterial metabolism
  • fatty acid pathway
  • metabolic positive feedback
  • nutrient shift
  • persistence


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