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Microbiol Rev. Jun 1994; 58(2): 211–232.
PMCID: PMC372962

The bacterial nucleoid revisited.

Abstract

This review compares the results of different methods of investigating the morphology of nucleoids of bacteria grown under conditions favoring short generation times. We consider the evidence from fixed and stained specimens, from phase-contrast and fluorescence microscopy of growing bacteria, and from electron microscopy of whole as well as thinly sectioned ones. It is concluded that the nucleoid of growing cells is in a dynamic state: part of the chromatin is "pulled out" of the bulk of the nucleoid in order to be transcribed. This activity is performed by excrescences which extend far into the cytoplasm so as to reach the maximum of available ribosomes. Different means of fixation provide markedly different views of the texture of the DNA-containing plasm of the bulk of the nucleoid. Conventional chemical fixatives stabilize the cytoplasm of bacteria but not their protein-low chromatin. Uranyl acetate does cross-link the latter well but only if the cytoplasm has first been fixed conventionally. In the interval between the two fixations, the DNA arranges itself in liquid-crystalline form, supposedly because of loss of supercoiling. In stark contrast, cryofixation preserves bacterial chromatin in a finely granular form, believed to reflect its native strongly negatively supercoiled state. In dinoflagellates the DNA of their permanently visible chromosomes (also low in histone-like protein) is natively present as a liquid crystal. The arrangement of chromatin in Epulocystis fishelsoni, one of the largest known prokaryotes, is briefly described.

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