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J Bacteriol. 2004 Jun;186(11):3286-95.

Atomic force microscopy of cell growth and division in Staphylococcus aureus.

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  • 1Department of Physics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 3J5.


The growth and division of Staphylococcus aureus was monitored by atomic force microscopy (AFM) and thin-section transmission electron microscopy (TEM). A good correlation of the structural events of division was found using the two microscopies, and AFM was able to provide new additional information. AFM was performed under water, ensuring that all structures were in the hydrated condition. Sequential images on the same structure revealed progressive changes to surfaces, suggesting the cells were growing while images were being taken. Using AFM small depressions were seen around the septal annulus at the onset of division that could be attributed to so-called murosomes (Giesbrecht et al., Arch. Microbiol. 141:315-324, 1985). The new cell wall formed from the cross wall (i.e., completed septum) after cell separation and possessed concentric surface rings and a central depression; these structures could be correlated to a midline of reactive material in the developing septum that was seen by TEM. The older wall, that which was not derived from a newly formed cross wall, was partitioned into two different surface zones, smooth and gel-like zones, with different adhesive properties that could be attributed to cell wall turnover. The new and old wall topographies are equated to possible peptidoglycan arrangements, but no conclusion can be made regarding the planar or scaffolding models.

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