Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Bacterial Cell Morphogenesis Does Not Require a Preexisting Template Structure

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Yoshikazu Kawai, Dr Romain Mercier, Professor Jeff ErringtonORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Morphogenesis, the development of shape or form in cells or organisms, is a fundamental but poorly understood process throughout biology. In the bacterial domain, cells have a wide range of characteristic shapes, including rods, cocci, and spirals. The cell wall, composed of a simple meshwork of long glycan strands crosslinked by short peptides (peptidoglycan, PG) and anionic cell wall polymers such as wall teichoic acids (WTAs), is the major determinant of cell shape. It has long been debated whether the formation of new wall material or the transmission of shape from parent to daughter cells requires existing wall material as a template [1-3]. However, rigorous testing of this hypothesis has been problematical because the cell wall is normally an essential structure. L-forms are wall-deficient variants of common bacteria that have been classically identified as antibiotic-resistant variants in association with a wide range of infectious diseases [4-6]. We recently determined the genetic basis for the L-form transition in the rod-shaped bacterium Bacillus subtilis and thus how to generate L-forms reliably and reproducibly [7, 8]. Using the new L-form system, we show here that we can delete essential genes for cell wall synthesis and propagate cells in the long-term absence of a cell wall template molecule. Following genetic restoration of cell wall synthesis, we show that the ability to generate a classical rod-shaped cell is restored, conclusively rejecting template-directed models, at least for the establishment of cell shape in B. subtilis.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kawai Y, Mercier R, Errington J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Current Biology

Year: 2014

Volume: 24

Issue: 8

Pages: 863-867

Print publication date: 14/04/2014

Online publication date: 03/04/2014

Acceptance date: 25/02/2014

Date deposited: 02/09/2014

ISSN (print): 0960-9822

ISSN (electronic): 1879-0445

Publisher: Cell Press


DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.02.053


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name
Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship
250363European Research Council