Caulobacter crescentus, concentrating DivJ
Caulobacter crescentus, concentrating DivJ

Infographic: Nutrient Scarcity Drives Phase Separation in Bacteria

When the bacterium Caulobacter crescentus runs low on fuel, it can still replicate by clustering its remaining ATP around the cell division enzyme DivJ.

Viviane Callier
Viviane Callier

Viviane was a Churchill Scholar at the University of Cambridge, where she studied early tetrapods. Her PhD at Duke University focused on the role of oxygen in insect body size...

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Jul 18, 2022

ABOVE: When the bacterium Caulobacter crescentus runs low on fuel, it can still replicate by clustering its remaining ATP around the cell division enzyme DivJ © NANOCLUSTERING.COM

When nutrients are scarce and ATP levels are low, a condensate forms inside Caulobacter crescentus, concentrating DivJ, an enzyme critical for cell division. At sufficiently high local concentrations, DivJ can better utilize the molecules of ATP available to it, powering cell division. When researchers prevented the formation of condensates under ATP depletion, the concentration of DivJ was too low to efficiently use the dwindling fuel reserves. As a result, bacterial cells could grow but not divide, producing abnormally elongated shapes.

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This article was featured in July 2022, Issue 2 of the digest