ABSTRACT | One of the most remarkable features of bacteria is their ability to adapt to stress environments. Recent advances in microbiology showed that the key for this is the rewiring of the cellular regulatory, metabolic and signalling networks. This is a reversible (soft) adaptation as opposed to the irreversible (hard) one that is based on mutation. In this talk the role of randomness in soft adaptation will be reviewed. It will be demonstrated that the “survival of the fittest”-type laws are not the only drives behind evolution. The findings are key to such newly discovered phenomenon like microbial epigenetics, which indicates that even bacterial cells can “learn” from periodical stresses; i.e. subsequent generations’ responses depend on the stresses the ancestors went through. Analogous examples from other areas of life and social sciences will show that randomly distributed responses and diversity are crucial for a population to successfully adapt to stress environments.
BIO | József is a Hungarian-British biomathematician who got his PhD in numerical mathematics and modelling from the University of Szeged in Hungary, then worked for the Institute of Food Research, Norwich, UK, for 26 years, leading the Computational Microbiology Research Group there. He is currently an independent consultant and lecturer, holding workshops and specialized courses at various universities and research establishments in Europe and Latin America. He is member of the Editorial Board for the International Journal of Food Microbiology and the Acta Alimentaria. He published ca 80 refereed research papers, with a total citation of ca 4500. The Baranyi model on bacterial growth is one of the most frequently quoted models in predictive microbiology. He is a member of the International Academy of Food Science and Technology, the prime advisory body of the International Union of Food Science and Technology and an invited external expert of the “Environment and Food Safety Committee” of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He is a recipient of the “Distinguished Service Award” of the American Society for Microbiology.