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Health Center Today, June 2, 2010

PNAS Article Studies the Shape of Bacteria

By Chris DeFrancesco

Charles Wolgemuth, associate professor of cell biology in the Richard D. Berlin Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling, is a co-author of an article published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences focusing on variances in the shape of bacteria.

"Many bacteria are cylindrical, but will grow into other shapes, if forced to," Wolgemuth says. "Upon release of the applied force, bacteria can slowly straighten back to the shape they prefer. Our work shows that the mechanism for this straightening is quite straightforward and relies on nothing more than directed insertion of new cell wall material along existing strands of the fabric that constitutes the wall."

How a bacterium is shaped affects its ability to move and invade hosts. An understanding of how bacteria create and maintain their shape would assist in the effort to create nano or micro machines that can self-replicate.

The study abstract is available online.