UMMS Affiliation

Program in Molecular Medicine; Program in Systems Biology

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Document Type



Cell Biology | Cellular and Molecular Physiology | Fungi | Molecular Biology | Systems Biology


Dormancy is colloquially considered as extending lifespan by being still. Starved yeasts form dormant spores that wake-up (germinate) when nutrients reappear but cannot germinate (die) after some time. What sets their lifespans and how they age are open questions because what processes occur-and by how much-within each dormant spore remains unclear. With single-cell-level measurements, we discovered how dormant yeast spores age and die: spores have a quantifiable gene-expressing ability during dormancy that decreases over days to months until it vanishes, causing death. Specifically, each spore has a different probability of germinating that decreases because its ability to-without nutrients-express genes decreases, as revealed by a synthetic circuit that forces GFP expression during dormancy. Decreasing amounts of molecules required for gene expression-including RNA polymerases-decreases gene-expressing ability which then decreases chances of germinating. Spores gradually lose these molecules because they are produced too slowly compared with their degradations, causing gene-expressing ability to eventually vanish and, thus, death. Our work provides a systems-level view of dormancy-to-death transition.


ageing, dormancy, gene expression, germination, yeast spores

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Copyright 2020 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 license.

DOI of Published Version



Maire T, Allertz T, Betjes MA, Youk H. Dormancy-to-death transition in yeast spores occurs due to gradual loss of gene-expressing ability. Mol Syst Biol. 2020 Nov;16(11):e9245. doi: 10.15252/msb.20199245. PMID: 33206464; PMCID: PMC7673291. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Molecular systems biology

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.