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Crit Rev Microbiol. 1993;19(1):17-42.

Biomass growth rate during the prokaryote cell cycle.

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Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington 47405.


The rate of biomass growth throughout the cell cycle of prokaryotes is important in the study of global regulation. Two limiting cases have generally been considered: the exponential model and the linear model. The exponential model is a logical expectation because protein, the main component of biomass of a bacterial cell, increases continuously during the cell cycle and therefore the means for synthesis of other cell components and metabolites also increases. In addition, during the cell cycle, ribosomes, the means of production of proteins, increase monotonically. As a consequence, the increase of all should be autocatalytic and the content of cell substance should be an exponential function of time. Two cellular components would not be expected to increase exponentially: the DNA and the cell envelope. The former because of the intermittent synthesis of the chromosome, and the latter because of changes in the surface-to-volume ratio with growth and division. In contrast to the exponential model, the linear model of Kubitschek postulates that the cell only increases its membrane transport capability over a brief period during the cell cycle, and, thus limited by transport, all cell components can increase only at a constant linear rate during most of the cell cycle. Other proposed models are intermediate and assume that the growth rate of the cell depends on some cell cycle event, such as the initiation of chromosome replication. The models have relevance to prokaryotes undergoing balanced growth; they may not be relevant to eukaryotic microbes or to eukaryotic cells in tissue culture that have endogenous rhythms or are controlled by protein growth factors. Logically, the models could possibly apply to a free-living cell that does not respond to environmental cues. Even under rigidly constant conditions, however, cells may try to respond to a stimulus that was periodic or regulatory under natural conditions, but is present at a constant level under the experimental culture condition. There are four classes of experiments that have been used to measure the accumulation of dry biomass or its components during the cell cycle of a bacterium, as typified by Escherichia coli. For the first class of experiments, the dimensions of living cells are measured under the microscope. So far, the experiments have been limited by the resolving power of the phase microscope, but adequate resolution should be possible with the confocal scanning light microscope or various video computer systems. Such experiments are called integral because augmentation of cell constituents is followed. The second class involves pulse-chase labeling of cells and then their separation into different phases of the cycle or age groups and measurement of the radioactivity per cell in the fractions. Such experiments are called differential in that the rate is measured directly instead of being deduced by comparing the total size at different times.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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