Survival in Extreme Conditions: The Bacterial Stress Response

A photograph of a hot spring with areas of bright red, orange, and yellow.

The red, orange, and yellow layers around the edges of this hot spring in Yellowstone National Park are produced by thermophilic ("heat-loving") bacteria, which thrive in extremely hot temperatures. (NPS photo by Jim Peaco, on Yellowstone Digital Slide File)


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Fall 2010



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Bacteria survive in almost all environments on Earth, including some considered extremely harsh. From the steaming hot springs of Yellowstone to the frozen tundra of the arctic to the barren deserts of Chile, microbes have been found thriving. Their tenacity to survive in such extreme and varied conditions allows them to play fundamental roles in global nutrient cycling. Microbes also cause a wide range of human diseases and can survive inhospitable conditions found in the human body. In this course, we will examine the molecular systems that bacteria use to adapt to changes in their environment. We will consider stresses commonly encountered, such as starvation, oxidative stress and heat shock, and also discuss how the adaptive responses affect the evolution of the bacteria.

This course is one of many Advanced Undergraduate Seminars offered by the Biology Department at MIT. These seminars are tailored for students with an interest in using primary research literature to discuss and learn about current biological research in a highly interactive setting. Many instructors of the Advanced Undergraduate Seminars are postdoctoral scientists with a strong interest in teaching.

Related Content

Celeste Peterson. 7.345 Survival in Extreme Conditions: The Bacterial Stress Response. Fall 2010. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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