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PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e44582. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044582. Epub 2012 Sep 10.

Cell division site placement and asymmetric growth in mycobacteria.

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MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection, Department of Medicine, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom.


Mycobacteria are members of the actinomycetes that grow by tip extension and lack apparent homologues of the known cell division regulators found in other rod-shaped bacteria. Previous work using static microscopy on dividing mycobacteria led to the hypothesis that these cells can grow and divide asymmetrically, and at a wide range of sizes, in contrast to the cell growth and division patterns observed in the model rod-shaped organisms. In this study, we test this hypothesis using live-cell time-lapse imaging of dividing Mycobacterium smegmatis labelled with fluorescent PBP1a, to probe peptidoglycan synthesis and label the cell septum. We demonstrate that the new septum is placed accurately at mid-cell, and that the asymmetric division observed is a result of differential growth from the cell tips, with a more than 2-fold difference in growth rate between fast and slow growing poles. We also show that the division site is not selected at a characteristic cell length, suggesting this is not an important cue during the mycobacterial cell cycle.

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