Bacterial Reproduction and Growth


Bacteria growing in a suitable medium increase in number by having each cell increase in size, and then each cell divides to produce two daughter cells. The increase in cell number in a culture is, therefore, a result of the activity of the cell during the division cycle, between the period of birth by division and the subsequent division. There is a close relation between the composition of the growth medium and the bacterial growth rate and Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) replication. The exponential growth of bacteria can be understood from the increase of cellular material, such as ribonucleic acid and protein, which, in turn, generate more cellular components. Recent studies have revealed a relation between the cell cycle and the control of initiation of DNA replication, cell division and cell surface synthesis.

Key Concepts:

  • Bacterial growth rate is a function of the growth conditions.

  • Fast‐growing rod‐shaped bacterial cells are larger than slow‐growing cells.

  • A key regulatory event in the bacterial cell cycle is the initiation of DNA replication.

  • Bacterial cells age over time.

  • Multiple rounds of chromosome replication can be accommodated within one bacterial cell cycle.

  • Bacteria use their nutritional state as a cue for the start of cell division.

Keywords: DNA; cytoplasm; cell division; replication; peptidoglycan; shift‐up; bacterial cell cycle; bacterial ageing

Figure 1.

Growth of bacteria at different growth rates and during a shift‐up between growth rates. (a) Composition of bacteria as a function of growth rate. (b) Synthesis of cell components during a shift‐up from minimal medium to faster growth in richer medium.

Figure 2.

The life cycle of E. coli. During cell division, two new poles are formed, one in each of the progeny cells (new poles, shown in blue). The other ends of those cells were formed during a previous division (old poles, shown in red). (a) The number of divisions since each pole was formed is indicated by the number inside the pole. Using the number of divisions since the older pole of each cell was formed, it is possible to assign an age in divisions to that cell, as indicated. Similarly, cells that consecutively divided as a new pole are assigned a new pole age, based on the current, consecutive divisions as a new pole cell. (b) Time‐lapse images of growing cells corresponding to the stages in (a). False colour has been added to identify the poles. Reproduced with permission from Stewart et al.. © PLoS.

Figure 3.

DNA synthesis during the division cycle. Three different patterns are illustrated for cells growing with 20‐, 30‐ and 60‐min doubling times. For each growth rate, the time from initiation to termination of DNA replication (the C period) is 40 min. The time between termination of replication and cell division (the D period) is 20 min. The proposed chromosome patterns at the start and finish of the division cycle are illustrated above the graphs. In addition to the rate of DNA synthesis during the division cycle, the pattern of accumulation of DNA during the division cycle is presented. Accumulation of DNA is composed of periods of linear synthesis. The rates during these periods are proportional to the existing number of growing points. The graph of the rate of synthesis is the differential of the accumulation plot. A representation of the cell size expected for cells at the start of the division cycle is presented below each synthetic pattern. The sizes of the newborn cells are in the ratio of 1:2:4 in the three cultures illustrated here. The number of new initiations at the start of each division cycle is also in the ratio of 1:2:4.

Figure 4.

Cell surface synthesis during the division cycle. After birth, and before the assembly of the FtsZ ring, the cell grows only by cylinder extension. Insertion of surface material (light green) is coordinated by the actin homologue MreB (green) and occurs in a patchy/helical fashion. Each cell is drawn to scale, with the volume of the cells increasing exponentially during the division cycle. After the assembly of the FtsZ ring (red), cells elongate further due to PBP3‐insensitive PG synthesis (PIPS, orange), a process that is independent of MreB or other cell division proteins, such as FtsZ and, in E. coli, ZipA (Potluri et al., ). Once other cell division proteins are assembled, septal surface synthesis takes place that forms the material for the new poles (blue). Subsequently, the poles are split through the activity of PG hydrolases.



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Further Reading

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Vollmer W and Seligman SJ (2010) Architecture of peptidoglycan: more data and more models. Trends in Microbiology 18: 59–66.

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Scheffers, Dirk‐Jan(Dec 2013) Bacterial Reproduction and Growth. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001419.pub2]