Tight coupling of cell width to nucleoid structure in Escherichia coli

Charles B. Howard, Avinoam Rabinovitch, Galit Yehezkel, Arieh Zaritsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cell dimensions of rod-shaped bacteria such as Escherichia coli are connected to mass growth and chromosome replication. During their interdivision cycle (τ min), cells enlarge by elongation only, but at faster growth in richer media, they are also wider. Changes in width W upon nutritional shift-up (shortening τ) occur during the division process. The elusive signal directing the mechanism for W determination is likely related to the tightly linked duplications of the nucleoid (DNA) and the sacculus (peptidoglycan), the only two structures (macromolecules) existing in a single copy that are coupled, temporally and spatially. Six known parameters related to the nucleoid structure and replication are reasonable candidates to convey such a signal, all simple functions of the key number of replication positions n(=C/τ), the ratio between the rates of growth (τ−1) and of replication (C−1). The current analysis of available literature-recorded data discovered that, of these, nucleoid complexity NC[=(2n−1)/(n×ln2)] is by far the most likely parameter affecting cell width W. The exceedingly high correlations found between these two seemingly unrelated measures (NC and W) indicate that coupling between them is of major importance to the species’ survival. As an exciting corollary, to the best of our knowledge, a new, indirect approach to estimate DNA replication rate is revealed. Potential involvement of DNA topoisomerases in W determination is also proposed and discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-508
Number of pages7
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 20 Feb 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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