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J Gen Microbiol. 1982 May;128(5):927-45.

The role of surface stress in the morphology of microbes.


The shapes of many prokaryotes can be understood by the assumption that the cell wall expands in response to tension created by the osmotically derived hydrostatic pressure. Different organisms have different shapes because wall growth takes place in different regions. A previous paper (Koch et al., 1981 a) considered the simplest case of prokaryotic growth, i.e. that of Streptococcus faecium. In the present paper, an elaboration of this theory is applied to two further cases - the more perfectly spherical cocci and the rod-shaped bacteria. These cases are more complex mathematically, because growth over a considerable fraction of the surface must be considered. Such diffuse growth cannot be treated analytically, but can be simulated on a computer or handled by geometric arguments. The spherical form of the cocci may result from either diffuse growth over their entire external surface, or from zonal growth in which the addition of new material only occurs in the immediate vicinity of the splitting septum. In the zonal model, it must be assumed that the least amount of previously laid down septal peptidoglycan consistent with wall growth is reworked in the formation of the new external wall. For Gram-positive rods, where the body of the rod is truly cylindrical, three kinds of growth zones are required: (1) the inward edge of the ingrowing septum, (2) the junction of septum and nascent pole, and (3) the cylindrical walls. Two modes for cylindrical elongation ara possible: (a) new wall is added in one or a few narrow annular zones, or (b) new wall material is added continuously all over the innermost surface and the outer layer is degraded. It is shown that the latter case applies to Bacillus subtilis. Also summarized in this paper are results, developed in more detail elsewhere, concerning the morphology of fusiform bacteria, Gram-negative rods and the hyphal tips of fungi.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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