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Bioessays. 1995 Jun;17(6):569-76.

Cell shape and chromosome partition in prokaryotes or, why E. coli is rod-shaped and haploid.

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Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.


In the rod-shaped cells of E. coli, chromosome segregation takes place immediately after replication has been completed. A septum then forms between the two sister chromosomes. In the absence of certain membrane proteins, cells grow instead as large, multichromosomal spheres that divide successively in planes that are at right angles to one another. Although multichromosomal, the spherical cells cannot be maintained as heterozygotes. These observations imply that, in these mutants, each individual chromosome gives rise to a separate clone of descendant cells. This suggests a model in which sites for cell division form between pairs of sister chromosomes at the time of segregation, but are not used in spherical cells until further rounds of replication have taken place, thus ensuring clonal ('hierarchical') segregation of chromosomes into progeny cells. The role of the morphogenetic membrane proteins is to convert the basically spherical cell into a cylinder that is able to divide as soon as replication and segregation have been completed, and thus to maximise the number of viable cells per genome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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