Scientists track stress through the generations

Yale scientists have devised new methods to detect how the effects of stress are passed down through descendants of a single yeast cell.

When stress hits a single yeast cell, its complex molecular response to hardship is passed down through generations of daughter cells, a new Yale study has found. The research — and the tools that enabled it — may help scientists develop drugs sensitive to cellular change and sheds light on how evolution may help organisms survive stress, say the investigators. 

Yale scientists Meenakshi Chatterjee and Murat Acar of the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and the Systems Biology Institute developed a microfluidic device capable of tracking the dynamics of a single cell through multiple generations. In response to stress — in this case glucose deprivation — yeast cells mobilize a complex genetic response, which is also found in daughter cells. 

The researchers also found greater the stress, greater chance that these molecular changes would be passed on to descendants. (In the clip above, several generations of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast cells emerge from a single ancestor.) 

The paper was published online in the journal Science Advances.

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