• stationary phase;
  • starvation;
  • rpoS;
  • growth advantage in stationary phase (GASP);
  • stress-induced mutations


Conditions that sustain constant bacterial growth are seldom found in nature. Oligotrophic environments and competition among microorganisms force bacteria to be able to adapt quickly to rough and changing situations. A particular lifestyle composed of continuous cycles of growth and starvation is commonly referred to as feast and famine. Bacteria have developed many different mechanisms to survive in nutrient-depleted and harsh environments, varying from producing a more resistant vegetative cell to complex developmental programmes. As a consequence of prolonged starvation, certain bacterial species enter a dynamic nonproliferative state in which continuous cycles of growth and death occur until ‘better times’ come (restoration of favourable growth conditions). In the laboratory, microbiologists approach famine situations using batch culture conditions. The entrance to the stationary phase is a very regulated process governed by the alternative sigma factor RpoS. Induction of RpoS changes the gene expression pattern, aiming to produce a more resistant cell. The study of stationary phase revealed very interesting phenomena such as the growth advantage in stationary phase phenotype. This review focuses on some of the interesting responses of gram-negative bacteria when they enter the fascinating world of stationary phase.