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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2011 Dec;75(4):543-65. doi: 10.1128/MMBR.00006-11.

Physics of bacterial morphogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Mechanical Engineering, Whitaker Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.

Erratum in

  • Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2012 Mar;76(1):113.


Bacterial cells utilize three-dimensional (3D) protein assemblies to perform important cellular functions such as growth, division, chemoreception, and motility. These assemblies are composed of mechanoproteins that can mechanically deform and exert force. Sometimes, small-nucleotide hydrolysis is coupled to mechanical deformations. In this review, we describe the general principle for an understanding of the coupling of mechanics with chemistry in mechanochemical systems. We apply this principle to understand bacterial cell shape and morphogenesis and how mechanical forces can influence peptidoglycan cell wall growth. We review a model that can potentially reconcile the growth dynamics of the cell wall with the role of cytoskeletal proteins such as MreB and crescentin. We also review the application of mechanochemical principles to understand the assembly and constriction of the FtsZ ring. A number of potential mechanisms are proposed, and important questions are discussed.

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