The compartmentalized vessel: The bacterial cell as a model for subcellular organization (a tale of two studies)

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The traditional view of bacterial cells as non-compartmentalized, which is based on the lack of membrane-engulfed organelles, is currently being reassessed. Many studies in recent years led to the realization that bacteria have an intricate internal organization that is vital for various cellular processes. Specifically, various machineries were shown to localize to the poles of rod-shaped bacteria. We have recently shown that the control center of the PTS system, which governs carbon uptake and metabolism, localizes to the poles of E. coli cells. Notably, the machinery that controls bacterial taxis along chemical gradients (chemotaxis) has a similar localization pattern. The fact that the two systems need to communicate in order to generate an optimal metabolic response suggests that their similar spatial organization is not a coincidence. Rather, due to their special characteristics, the poles may function as hubs for signaling systems to allow for efficient crosstalk between different pathways in order to improve coordination of their actions.The regulatory mechanisms that underlie the spatial and temporal organization of microbial cells are largely unknown. Thus far, these mechanisms were believed to rely on embedded features of the localized proteins. In another study, we have recently shown that mRNAs are capable of migrating to particular domains in the bacterial cell where their protein products are required. In contrast to the view that transcription and translation are coupled in bacteria, localization of bacterial transcripts may occur in a translation-independent manner. Hence, it seems that the mechanistic basis for separating transcription and translation is more primitive than assumed up until now. We propose that bacteria synthesize proteins either by a transcription-translation coupled mechanism or by transporting mRNAs away from the transcription apparatus. Obviously, eukaryotic cells rely on the latter mechanism. Hence, the capacity of prokaryotic cells to adopt the division between transcription and translation was a crucial step in the evolution of nucleus-containing cells from the prokaryotic origin. Summarily, the line that separates cells with nucleus and cells without is fading, leading to the realization that bacteria are suitable model organisms for studying universal mechanisms that underlie spatial regulation of cellular processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-81
Number of pages5
JournalCellular logistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011


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