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Phys Rev Lett. 2006 Mar 10;96(9):098102. Epub 2006 Mar 10.

Physical nature of bacterial cytoplasm.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA.


We track the motion of individual fluorescently labeled mRNA molecules inside live E. coli cells. We find that the motion is subdiffusive, with an exponent that is robust to physiological changes, including the disruption of cytoskeletal elements. By modifying the parameters of the RNA molecule and the bacterial cell, we are able to examine the possible mechanisms that can lead to this unique type of motion, especially the effect of macromolecular crowding. We also examine the implications of anomalous diffusion on the kinetics of bacterial gene regulation, in particular, how transcription factors find their DNA targets.

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