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Geometric principles underlying the proliferation of a model cell system

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ling Juan Wu, Dr Seoungjun Lee, Sungshic Park, Dr Lucy Eland, Professor Anil Wipat, Dr Seamus Holden, Professor Jeff ErringtonORCiD



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


© 2020, The Author(s). Many bacteria can form wall-deficient variants, or L-forms, that divide by a simple mechanism that does not require the FtsZ-based cell division machinery. Here, we use microfluidic systems to probe the growth, chromosome cycle and division mechanism of Bacillus subtilis L-forms. We find that forcing cells into a narrow linear configuration greatly improves the efficiency of cell growth and chromosome segregation. This reinforces the view that L-form division is driven by an excess accumulation of surface area over volume. Cell geometry also plays a dominant role in controlling the relative positions and movement of segregating chromosomes. Furthermore, the presence of the nucleoid appears to influence division both via a cell volume effect and by nucleoid occlusion, even in the absence of FtsZ. Our results emphasise the importance of geometric effects for a range of crucial cell functions, and are of relevance for efforts to develop artificial or minimal cell systems.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wu LJ, Lee S, Park S, Eland LE, Wipat A, Holden S, Errington J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature Communications

Year: 2020

Volume: 11

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 18/08/2020

Acceptance date: 24/07/2020

Date deposited: 16/10/2020

ISSN (electronic): 2041-1723

Publisher: Nature Research


DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-17988-7

PubMed id: 32811832


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Funder referenceFunder name
206670/Z/17/ZWellcome Trust