Sunday, 24 September 2017

How bacteria maintain and recover their shape

Bacteria have an extraordinary ability to maintain and recover their morphology even after being twisted out of shape. Shape plays an important role in how bacteria infiltrate and attack cells in the body. The helical shape of Helicobacter pylori, a species of bacteria which can cause ulcers, may help it penetrate tissues.

Researchers know that shape is determined by the cell wall, yet little is known about how bacteria monitor and control it. Since the cell wall is the target of most antibiotics, understanding how bacteria grow their cell walls may provide insight into more effective medicines. Now, a team of researchers has found that Escherichia coli may use mechanical cues to keep their shape.

In the new research, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences researchers explored whether coupling wall growth to mechanical strain -- how the bacterium was compressed or stretched -- could explain the snapback and predict how fast the bacteria would straighten when released.


Felix Wong, Lars D. Renner, Gizem Ă–zbaykal, Jayson Paulose, Douglas B. Weibel, Sven van Teeffelen, Ariel Amir. Mechanical strain sensing implicated in cell shape recovery in Escherichia coliNature Microbiology, 2017; 2: 17115 DOI: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2017.115
Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle