Metabolic heterogeneity and cross-feeding within isogenic yeast populations captured by DILAC

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Genetically identical cells are known to differ in many physiological parameters such as growth rate and drug tolerance. Metabolic specialization is believed to be a cause of such phenotypic heterogeneity, but detection of metabolically divergent subpopulations remains technically challenging. We developed a proteomics-based technology, termed differential isotope labelling by amino acids (DILAC), that can detect producer and consumer subpopulations of a particular amino acid within an isogenic cell population by monitoring peptides with multiple occurrences of the amino acid. We reveal that young, morphologically undifferentiated yeast colonies contain subpopulations of lysine producers and consumers that emerge due to nutrient gradients. Deconvoluting their proteomes using DILAC, we find evidence for in situ cross-feeding where rapidly growing cells ferment and provide the more slowly growing, respiring cells with ethanol. Finally, by combining DILAC with fluorescence-activated cell sorting, we show that the metabolic subpopulations diverge phenotypically, as exemplified by a different tolerance to the antifungal drug amphotericin B. Overall, DILAC captures previously unnoticed metabolic heterogeneity and provides experimental evidence for the role of metabolic specialization and cross-feeding interactions as a source of phenotypic heterogeneity in isogenic cell populations.

Journal details

Volume 8
Issue number 3
Pages 441-454
Available online
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