A unifying autocatalytic network-based framework for bacterial growth laws

Anjan Roy, Dotan Goberman, Rami Pugatch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Recently discovered simple quantitative relations, known as bacterial growth laws, hint at the existence of simple underlying principles at the heart of bacterial growth. In this work, we provide a unifying picture of how these known relations, as well as relations that we derive, stem from a universal autocatalytic network common to all bacteria, facilitating balanced exponential growth of individual cells. We show that the core of the cellular autocatalytic network is the transcription-translation machinery-in itself an autocatalytic network comprising several coupled autocatalytic cycles, including the ribosome, RNA polymerase, and transfer RNA (tRNA) charging cycles. We derive two types of growth laws per autocatalytic cycle, one relating growth rate to the relative fraction of the catalyst and its catalysis rate and the other relating growth rate to all the time scales in the cycle. The structure of the autocatalytic network generates numerous regimes in state space, determined by the limiting components, while the number of growth laws can be much smaller. We also derive a growth law that accounts for the RNA polymerase autocatalytic cycle, which we use to explain how growth rate depends on the inducible expression of the rpoB and rpoC genes, which code for the RpoB and C protein subunits of RNA polymerase, and how the concentration of rifampicin, which targets RNA polymerase, affects growth rate without changing the RNA-to-protein ratio. We derive growth laws for tRNA synthesis and charging and predict how growth rate depends on temperature, perturbation to ribosome assembly, and membrane synthesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2107829118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number33
StatePublished - 17 Aug 2021


  • Autocatalysis
  • Bacterial growth laws
  • Self-replication
  • Transcription
  • Translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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