Bridging the Timescales of Single-Cell and Population Dynamics

How are granular details of stochastic growth and division of individual cells reflected in smooth deterministic growth of population numbers? We provide an integrated, multiscale perspective of microbial growth dynamics by formulating a data-validated theoretical framework that accounts for observables at both single-cell and population scales. We derive exact analytical complete time-dependent solutions to cell-age distributions and population growth rates as functionals of the underlying interdivision time distributions, for symmetric and asymmetric cell division. These results provide insights into the surprising implications of stochastic single-cell dynamics for population growth. Using our results for asymmetric division, we deduce the time to transition from the reproductively quiescent (swarmer) to the replication-competent (stalked) stage of the Caulobacter crescentus life cycle. Remarkably, population numbers can spontaneously oscillate with time. We elucidate the physics leading to these population oscillations. For C. crescentus cells, we show that a simple measurement of the population growth rate, for a given growth condition, is sufficient to characterize the condition-specific cellular unit of time and, thus, yields the mean (single-cell) growth and division timescales, fluctuations in cell division times, the cell-age distribution, and the quiescence timescale.


Bridging the Timescales of Single-Cell and Population Dynamics
Farshid Jafarpour, Charles S. Wright, Herman Gudjonson, Jedidiah Riebling, Emma Dawson, Klevin Lo, Aretha Fiebig, Sean Crosson, Aaron R. Dinner, and Srividya Iyer-Biswas
Phys. Rev. X 8, 021007 – Published 5 April 2018