Eureka!: Small Wonders

Beauty of the Yeast

Photo: Paul J. Cullen

By Charlotte Hsu


Microscope photos capture the exquisiteness of yeast. Under normal conditions, yeast cells grow together in a tight cluster (upper left). But starve a colony, and new cells start budding outward in a filament-like pattern that may aid the search for food (bottom right). According to a new UB study, this change occurs within two and a half hours, affecting the first generation of yeast cells born to a colony in times of scarcity. The shift in growth patterns is driven by decision-making processes inside cells that kick into high gear only when nutrients are low, says UB biologist Paul Cullen.