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Bacterial cell curvature through mechanical control of cell growth

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Waldemar Vollmer, Dr Petra Born


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The cytoskeleton is a key regulator of cell morphogenesis. Crescentin, a bacterial intermediate filament-like protein, is required for the curved shape of Caulobacter crescentus and localizes to the inner cell curvature. Here, we show that crescentin forms a single filamentous structure that collapses into a helix when detached from the cell membrane, suggesting that it is normally maintained in a stretched configuration. Crescentin causes an elongation rate gradient around the circumference of the sidewall, creating a longitudinal cell length differential and hence curvature. Such curvature can be produced by physical force alone when cells are grown in circular microchambers. Production of crescentin in Escherichia coli is sufficient to generate cell curvature. Our data argue for a model in which physical strain borne by the crescentin structure anisotropically alters the kinetics of cell wall insertion to produce curved growth. Our study suggests that bacteria may use the cytoskeleton for mechanical control of growth to alter morphology.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cabeen MT, Charbon G, Vollmer W, Born P, Ausmees N, Weibel DB, Jacobs-Wagner C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: EMBO Journal

Year: 2009

Volume: 28

Issue: 9

Pages: 1208-1219

ISSN (print): 0261-4189

ISSN (electronic): 1460-2075

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/emboj.2009.61

Notes: See also comment: de Boer PAJ, EMBO Journal 2009, 28 1193-1194.


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Funder referenceFunder name
3M Corporation National
Pew Charitable Trusts
Mustard Seed Foundation
Searle Scholars Program
FOR449German Research Council DFG
GM076698National Institutes of Health
LSHM-CT-2004-512138European Commission