Paper by Niclas, Johan and Frank

Biphasic Cell-Size and Growth-Rate

Homeostasis by Single Bacillus subtilis Cells


The growth rate of single bacterial cells is continuously disturbed by random fluctuations in biosynthesis rates and by deterministic cell-cycle events, such as division, genome duplication, and septum formation. It is not understood whether, and how, bacteria reject these growth-rate disturbances. Here, we quantified growth and constitutive protein expression dynamics of single Bacillus subtilis cells as a function of cell-cycle progression. We found that, even though growth at the population level is exponential, close inspection of the cell cycle of thousands of single Bacillus subtilis cells reveals systematic deviations from exponential growth. Newborn cells display varying growth rates that depend on their size. When they divide, growth-rate variation has decreased, and growth rates have become birth size independent. Thus, cells indeed compensate for growth-rate disturbances and achieve growth-rate homeostasis. Protein synthesis and growth of single cells displayed correlated, biphasic dynamics from cell birth to division. During a first phase of variable duration, the absolute rates were approximately constant and cells behaved as sizers. In the second phase, rates increased, and growth behavior exhibited characteristics of a timer strategy. These findings demonstrate that, just like size homeostasis, growth-rate homeostasis is an inherent property of single cells that is achieved by cell-cycle-dependent rate adjustments of biosynthesis and growth.

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