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Annu Rev Microbiol. 2010;64:223-40. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.112408.134102.

Bacterial shape: two-dimensional questions and possibilities.

Author information

1
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas 72205-7199, USA. kdyoung@uams.edu

Abstract

Events in the past decade have made it both possible and interesting to ask how bacteria create cells of defined length, diameter, and morphology. The current consensus is that bacterial shape is determined by the coordinated activities of cytoskeleton complexes that drive cell elongation and division. Cell length is most easily explained by the timing of cell division, principally by regulating the activity of the FtsZ protein. However, the question of how cells establish and maintain a specific and uniform diameter is, by far, much more difficult to answer. Mutations associated with the elongation complex often alter cell width, though it is not clear how. Some evidence suggests that diameter is strongly influenced by events during cell division. In addition, surprising new observations show that the bacterial cell wall is more highly malleable than previously believed and that cells can alter and restore their shapes by relying only on internal mechanisms.

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