Modeling stochastic phenotype switching and bet-hedging in bacteria: stochastic nonlinear dynamics and critical state identification

17 Jan 2015  ·  Jia Chen, Qian Min-Ping, Kang Yu, Jiang Da-Quan ·

Fluctuating environments pose tremendous challenges to bacterial populations. It is observed in numerous bacterial species that individual cells can stochastically switch among multiple phenotypes for the population to survive in rapidly changing environments... This kind of phenotypic heterogeneity with stochastic phenotype switching is generally understood to be an adaptive bet-hedging strategy. Mathematical models are essential to gain a deeper insight into the principle behind bet-hedging and the pattern behind experimental data. Traditional deterministic models cannot provide a correct description of stochastic phenotype switching and bet-hedging, and traditional Markov chain models at the cellular level fail to explain their underlying molecular mechanisms. In this paper, we propose a nonlinear stochastic model of multistable bacterial systems at the molecular level. It turns out that our model not only provides a clear description of stochastic phenotype switching and bet-hedging within isogenic bacterial populations, but also provides a deeper insight into the analysis of multidimensional experimental data. Moreover, we use some deep mathematical theories to show that our stochastic model and traditional Markov chain models are essentially consistent and reflect the dynamic behavior of the bacterial system at two different time scales. In addition, we provide a quantitative characterization of the critical state of multistable bacterial systems and develop an effective data-driven method to identify the critical state without resorting to specific mathematical models. read more

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