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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2006 Sep;70(3):660-703.

The selective value of bacterial shape.

Author information

  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Dakota School of Medicine, Grand Forks, ND 58202-9037, USA. kyoung@medicine.nodak.edu

Abstract

Why do bacteria have shape? Is morphology valuable or just a trivial secondary characteristic? Why should bacteria have one shape instead of another? Three broad considerations suggest that bacterial shapes are not accidental but are biologically important: cells adopt uniform morphologies from among a wide variety of possibilities, some cells modify their shape as conditions demand, and morphology can be tracked through evolutionary lineages. All of these imply that shape is a selectable feature that aids survival. The aim of this review is to spell out the physical, environmental, and biological forces that favor different bacterial morphologies and which, therefore, contribute to natural selection. Specifically, cell shape is driven by eight general considerations: nutrient access, cell division and segregation, attachment to surfaces, passive dispersal, active motility, polar differentiation, the need to escape predators, and the advantages of cellular differentiation. Bacteria respond to these forces by performing a type of calculus, integrating over a number of environmental and behavioral factors to produce a size and shape that are optimal for the circumstances in which they live. Just as we are beginning to answer how bacteria create their shapes, it seems reasonable and essential that we expand our efforts to understand why they do so.

PMID:
16959965
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1594593
Free PMC Article
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