Compartmentalization and spatiotemporal organization of macromolecules in bacteria

Sutharsan Govindarajan, Keren Nevo-Dinur, Orna Amster-Choder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


For many years, the bacterial cells were regarded as tiny vessels lacking internal organization. This view, which stemmed from the scarcity of membrane-bounded organelles, has changed considerably in recent years, mainly due to advancements in imaging capabilities. Consequently, despite the rareness of conventional organelles, bacteria are now known to have an intricate internal organization, which is vital for many cellular processes. The list of bacterial macromolecules reported to have distinct localization patterns is rapidly growing. Moreover, time-lapse imaging revealed the spatiotemporal dynamics of various bacterial macromolecules. Although the regulatory mechanisms that underlie macromolecules localization in bacterial cells are largely unknown, certain strategies elucidated thus far include the establishment of cell polarity, the employment of cytoskeletal proteins, and the use of the membrane properties, that is, curvature, electric potential, and composition, as localization signals. The most surprising mechanism discovered thus far is targeting of certain mRNAs to the subcellular domains where their protein products are required. This mechanism relies on localization features in the mRNA itself and does not depend on translation. Localization of other mRNAs near their genetic loci suggests that the bacterial chromosome is involved in organizing gene expression. Taken together, the deep-rooted separation between cells with nucleus and without is currently changing, highlighting bacteria as suitable models for studying universal mechanisms underlying cell architecture.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1005-1022
Number of pages18
JournalFEMS Microbiology Reviews
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Cell compartmentalization
  • Cell polarity
  • Localized translation
  • Polar cues
  • RNA targeting
  • Subcellular organization


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