Phenotypic heterogeneity in Streptomyces colonies

Curr Opin Microbiol. 2024 Apr:78:102448. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2024.102448. Epub 2024 Mar 5.


Streptomyces are a large genus of multicellular bacteria best known for their prolific production of bioactive natural products. In addition, they play key roles in the mineralisation of insoluble resources, such as chitin and cellulose. Because of their multicellular mode of growth, colonies of interconnected hyphae extend over a large area that may experience different conditions in different parts of the colony. Here, we argue that within-colony phenotypic heterogeneity can allow colonies to simultaneously respond to divergent inputs from resources or competitors that are spatially and temporally dynamic. We discuss causal drivers of heterogeneity, including competitors, precursor availability, metabolic diversity and division of labour, that facilitate divergent phenotypes within Streptomyces colonies. We discuss the adaptive causes and consequences of within-colony heterogeneity, highlight current knowledge (gaps) and outline key questions for future studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Phenotype
  • Streptomyces* / genetics