Review Article | Published:

The bacterial cell cycle, chromosome inheritance and cell growth


All viable bacterial cells, whether they divide symmetrically or asymmetrically, must coordinate their growth, division, cell volume and shape with the inheritance of the genome. These coordinated processes maintain genome integrity over generations as chromosomes are duplicated and segregated during each cell cycle, and include the organization of DNA into nucleoids, controlled and faithful DNA replication, chromosome unlinking and faithful segregation into daughter cells. In this Review, we explore the contributions of chromosome structure and nucleoid organization to cell cycle regulation, detail the cellular processes involved in the initiation of DNA replication and DNA segregation and explore how those processes are linked to cell growth and cell division. Furthermore, we address how the study of a growing number of bacterial species enables the search for common principles that underlie the coordination of chromosome inheritance with the cell cycle.

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Research in the Reyes-Lamothe laboratory is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC# 435521–2013), the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR MOP# 142473) and the Canada Research Chairs programme. The Sherratt laboratory is funded by a Wellcome Investigator Award (200782/Z/16/Z). The authors thank many colleagues for stimulating discussions, in particular S. Uphoff and B. Novak (University of Oxford) and members of the Reyes-Lamothe laboratory.

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Nature Reviews Microbiology thanks T. Katayama and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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R.R.-L. and D.J.S. researched data for the article, substantially contributed to the discussion of content, wrote the article and reviewed and edited the article before submission.

Correspondence to Rodrigo Reyes-Lamothe or David J. Sherratt.

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Two chromosomal halves starting at the replication origin, each replicated by a different replication fork.

Generation time

Average time from birth to division.

Replication forks

Y-shaped DNA structures formed at the point where DNA is unwound during DNA replication.

Nucleoid occlusion

The process by which the presence of nucleoid DNA prevents the formation of an FtsZ ring and divisome over that DNA.

Stalked cells

Sessile, proliferative Caulobacter crescentus cells.

Swarmer cells

Motile Caulobacter crescentus cells that do not replicate.

Iteron plasmids

Characterized by a replication origin composed of repeated sequences that bind to a cognate initiator protein.


Replisome subunit that synthesizes short RNA primers which are then elongated by the DNA polymerase.

SOS response

Cellular response to DNA damage leading to inhibition of cell division and induction of DNA repair systems.


Structure that forms around the middle of the cell, composed of multiple proteins required for cell division.

Cohesion time

Time from the replication of a locus to the separation of the newly replicated sister loci.

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Further reading

Fig. 1: Stages of the cell cycle in relation to growth rate.
Fig. 2: Organization of the chromosome and nucleoid.
Fig. 3: Control of initiation of DNA replication.
Fig. 4: Regulation of the rate of synthesis of DNA.