Feedback linking cell envelope stiffness, curvature, and synthesis enables robust rod-shaped bacterial growth

Salem al-Mosleh, Ajay Gopinathan, Christian D. Santangelo, Kerwyn Casey Huang, Enrique R. Rojas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Bacterial growth is remarkably robust to environmental fluctuations, yet the mechanisms of growth-rate homeostasis are poorly understood. Here, we combine theory and experiment to infer mechanisms by which Escherichia coli adapts its growth rate in response to changes in osmolarity, a fundamental physicochemical property of the environment. The central tenet of our theoretical model is that cell-envelope expansion is only sensitive to local information, such as enzyme concentrations, cell-envelope curvature, and mechanical strain in the envelope. We constrained this model with quantitative measurements of the dynamics of E. coli elongation rate and cell width after hyperosmotic shock. Our analysis demonstrated that adaptive cell-envelope softening is a key process underlying growth-rate homeostasis. Furthermore, our model correctly predicted that softening does not occur above a critical hyperosmotic shock magnitude and precisely recapitulated the elongation-rate dynamics in response to shocks with magnitude larger than this threshold. Finally, we found that, to coordinately achieve growth-rate and cell-width homeostasis, cells employ direct feedback between cell-envelope curvature and envelope expansion. In sum, our analysis points to cellular mechanisms of bacterial growth-rate homeostasis and provides a practical theoretical framework for understanding this process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2200728119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 11 2022


  • cell envelope
  • cell mechanics
  • envelope softening
  • hyperosmotic shock
  • stored growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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