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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Jul 9;116(28):13833-13838. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1820455116. Epub 2019 Jun 24.

Systematic mapping of cell wall mechanics in the regulation of cell morphogenesis.

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Institut Jacques Monod, CNRS, Université de Paris, 75205 Paris Cedex 13, France.
Laboratoire Matières et Systèmes Complexes, UMR 7057, CNRS, Université de Paris, 75205 Paris Cedex 13, France.
Reproduction et Développement des Plantes, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Claude Bernard Lyon I, Inra, Université de Lyon, CNRS, 69364 Lyon Cedex 07, France
Institut Jacques Monod, CNRS, Université de Paris, 75205 Paris Cedex 13, France;


Walled cells of plants, fungi, and bacteria come with a large range of shapes and sizes, which are ultimately dictated by the mechanics of their cell wall. This stiff and thin polymeric layer encases the plasma membrane and protects the cells mechanically by opposing large turgor pressure derived mechanical stresses. To date, however, we still lack a quantitative understanding for how local and/or global mechanical properties of the wall support cell morphogenesis. Here, we combine subresolution imaging and laser-mediated wall relaxation to quantitate subcellular values of wall thickness (h) and bulk elastic moduli (Y) in large populations of live mutant cells and in conditions affecting cell diameter in the rod-shaped model fission yeast. We find that lateral wall stiffness, defined by the surface modulus, σ = hY, robustly scales with cell diameter. This scaling is valid across tens of mutants spanning various functions-within the population of individual isogenic strains, along single misshaped cells, and even across the fission yeasts clade. Dynamic modulations of cell diameter by chemical and/or mechanical means suggest that the cell wall can rapidly adapt its surface mechanics, rendering stretched wall portions stiffer than unstretched ones. Size-dependent wall stiffening constrains diameter definition and limits size variations; it may also provide an efficient means to keep elastic strains in the wall below failure strains, potentially promoting cell survival. This quantitative set of data impacts our current understanding of the mechanics of cell walls and its contribution to morphogenesis.


cell shape; cell surface mechanics; cell wall; fission yeast

[Available on 2019-12-24]

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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