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Life can be stressful. One way to deal with stress is to simply wait it out. Microbes do this by entering a state of reduced activity and increased resistance commonly called ‘dormancy’. But what is dormancy? Different scientific disciplines emphasize distinct traits and phenotypic ranges in defining dormancy for their microbial species and system-specific questions of interest. Here, we propose a unified definition of microbial dormancy, using a broad framework to place earlier discipline-specific definitions in a new context. We then discuss how this new definition and framework may improve our ability to investigate dormancy using multi-omics tools. Finally, we leverage our framework to discuss the diversity of genomic mechanisms for dormancy in an extreme environment that challenges easy definitions – the permafrost.


This article was originally published in Trends in Microbiology, volume 32, issue 2, in 2024.


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



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