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Regulation of microbial growth by turgor pressure

Rojas, Enrique R, Huang, Kerwyn Casey
Current opinion in microbiology 2018 v.42 pp. 62-70
Actinobacteria, Escherichia coli, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, bacteria, cell division, cell growth, forces, image analysis, lifestyle, microbial growth, osmolarity, osmotic stress, turgor
Rapid changes in environmental osmolarity are a natural aspect of microbial lifestyles. The change in turgor pressure resulting from an osmotic shock alters the mechanical forces within the cell envelope, and can impact cell growth across a range of timescales, through a variety of mechanical mechanisms. Here, we first summarize measurements of turgor pressure in various organisms. We then review how the combination of microfluidic flow cells and quantitative image analysis has driven discovery of the diverse ways in which turgor pressure mechanically regulates bacterial growth, independent of the effect of cytoplasmic crowding. In Gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria, reductions in turgor pressure cause decreased growth rate. Moreover, a hypoosmotic shock, which increases turgor pressure and membrane tension, leads to transient inhibition of cell-wall growth via electrical depolarization. By contrast, Gram-negative Escherichia coli is remarkably insensitive to changes in turgor. We discuss the extent to which turgor pressure impacts processes such as cell division that alter cell shape, in particular that turgor facilitates millisecond-scale daughter-cell separation in many Actinobacteria and eukaryotic fission yeast. This diverse set of responses showcases the potential for using osmotic shocks to interrogate how mechanical perturbations affect cellular processes.