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Mol Biol Cell. 2013 Apr;24(8):1099-102. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E12-11-0788.

Tiny cells meet big questions: a closer look at bacterial cell biology.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


While studying actin assembly as a graduate student with Matt Welch at the University of California at Berkeley, my interest was piqued by reports of surprising observations in bacteria: the identification of numerous cytoskeletal proteins, actin homologues fulfilling spindle-like functions, and even the presence of membrane-bound organelles. Curiosity about these phenomena drew me to Lucy Shapiro's lab at Stanford University for my postdoctoral research. In the Shapiro lab, and now in my lab at Johns Hopkins, I have focused on investigating the mechanisms of bacterial cytokinesis. Spending time as both a eukaryotic cell biologist and a bacterial cell biologist has convinced me that bacterial cells present the same questions as eukaryotic cells: How are chromosomes organized and accurately segregated? How is force generated for cytokinesis? How is polarity established? How are signals transduced within and between cells? These problems are conceptually similar between eukaryotes and bacteria, although their solutions can differ significantly in specifics. In this Perspective, I provide a broad view of cell biological phenomena in bacteria, the technical challenges facing those of us who peer into bacterial cells, and areas of common ground as research in eukaryotic and bacterial cell biology moves forward.

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