Episode Summary

Not as simple as it sounds—how rod-shaped bacteria maintain their shape!

Thanks to Dr. Ethan Garner for his contribution!

Microbe of the episode

Microbe of the episode: Erwinia virus M7

News discussed

Jesse's takeaways

Microbes seem like they should be a lot simpler than large multicellular organisms, but even what seems like it should be a simple system in microbes can be surprisingly complex. In this case, the system bacteria maintaining their particular cell shape.

Spherical cells have it easier: just add more cell material at every point. But for rods, they must make the cell longer without making it wider. How do they accomplish this? Two groups of proteins work together to help rod-shaped species grow, but how they work wasn't specifically known.

In this study, it was found that one group of proteins adds more cell material as it moves around the circumference, while the other adds structure to the cell that allows it to maintain shape. The more of these structural proteins present, the thinner the cell can stay.

Journal Paper

Dion MF, Kapoor M, Sun Y, Wilson S, Ryan J, Vigouroux A, van Teeffelen S, Oldenbourg R, Garner EC. 2019. Bacillus subtilis cell diameter is determined by the opposing actions of two distinct cell wall synthetic systems. Nat Microbiol 4:1294–1305.

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