Bent Bacteria: A Comparison of Cell Shape Mechanisms in Proteobacteria.


Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA; email: [Email]


Helical cell shape appears throughout the bacterial phylogenetic tree. Recent exciting work characterizing cell shape mutants in a number of curved and helical Proteobacteria is beginning to suggest possible mechanisms and provide tools to assess functional significance. We focus here on Caulobacter crescentus, Vibrio cholerae, Helicobacter pylori, and Campylobacter jejuni, organisms from three classes of Proteobacteria that live in diverse environments, from freshwater and saltwater to distinct compartments within the gastrointestinal tract of humans and birds. Comparisons among these bacteria reveal common themes as well as unique solutions to the task of maintaining cell curvature. While motility appears to be influenced in all these bacteria when cell shape is perturbed, consequences on niche colonization are diverse, suggesting the need to consider additional selective pressures.