Frank Bruggeman

Spontaneous difference between bacteria

Frank Bruggeman (1973) studies how biological cells exploit molecular circuits to adapt to new environments. Although his work is not limited to bacteria, understanding of cellular adaptation strategies is most feasible for bacteria. Bacteria are remarkable organisms, capable of sophisticated survival-strategies, even though they are the simplest forms of life. Successful adaptation strategies require that bacteria grow fast when nutrients are present, can withstand stresses, and can quickly change their growth and stress activities when environmental changes occur. All these activities trade off: a fast-growing bacterium is generally not stress resistant and adaptive, and a stress-resistant bacterium does not grow fast. Bacteria have to operate therefore within strict bounds, set by biological and physicochemical constraints. As a consequence, they have to adjust themselves continuously when conditions are dynamic. They achieve this via dedicated molecular circuits that are often remarkably simple. To understand the principles of bacterial survival-strategies, the group of researchers led by Bruggeman combine experimental and theoretical methods from different disciplines: microbiology, evolutionary biology and biophysics.