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Microbiology. 2004 May;150(Pt 5):1413-26.

Quantitative relationships for specific growth rates and macromolecular compositions of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2) and Escherichia coli B/r: an integrative theoretical approach.

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  • 1Division of Mycobacterial Research, National Institute for Medical Research, London NW7 1AA, UK.


Further understanding of the physiological states of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and other mycobacteria was sought through comparisons with the genomic properties and macromolecular compositions of Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2), grown at 30 degrees C, and Escherichia coli B/r, grown at 37 degrees C. A frame of reference was established based on quantitative relationships observed between specific growth rates ( micro ) of cells and their macromolecular compositions. The concept of a schematic cell based on transcription/translation coupling, average genes and average proteins was developed to provide an instantaneous view of macromolecular synthesis carried out by cells growing at their maximum rate. It was inferred that the ultra-fast growth of E. coli results from its ability to increase the average number of rRNA (rrn) operons per cell through polyploidy, thereby increasing its capacity for ribosome synthesis. The maximum growth rate of E. coli was deduced to be limited by the rate of uptake and consumption of nutrients providing energy. Three characteristic properties of S. coelicolor A3(2) growing optimally ( micro =0.30 h(-1)) were identified. First, the rate of DNA replication was found to approach the rate reported for E. coli ( micro =1.73 h(-1)); secondly, all rrn operons were calculated to be fully engaged in precursor-rRNA synthesis; thirdly, compared with E. coli, protein synthesis was found to depend on higher concentrations of ribosomes and lower concentrations of aminoacyl-tRNA and EF-Tu. An equation was derived for E. coli B/r relating micro to the number of rrn operons per genome. Values of micro =0.69 h(-1) and micro =1.00 h(-1) were obtained respectively for cells with one or two rrn operons per genome. Using the author's equation relating the number of rrn operons per genome to maximum growth rate, it is expected that M. tuberculosis with one rrn operon should be capable of growing much faster than it actually does. Therefore, it is suggested that the high number of insertion sequences in this species attenuates growth rate to still lower values.

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