Hypothesis: hyperstructures regulate bacterial structure and the cell cycle

Norris, Vic; Alexandre, Stephane; Bouligand, Yves; Cellier, Dominique; Demarty, Maurice; Grehan, Gerard; Gouesbet, Gerard; Guespin, Janine; Insinna, Ezio; Le Sceller, Lois; Maheu, Bruno; Monnier, Chantal; Grant, Norman; Onoda, Tetsuo; Orange, Nicole; Oshima, Akinobu; Picton, Luc; Polaert, Hubert; Ripoll, Camille; Thellier, Michel; Valleton, Jean-Marc; Verdus, Marie-Claire; Vincent, Jean-Claude; White, Glenn and Wiggins, Philippa (1999). Hypothesis: hyperstructures regulate bacterial structure and the cell cycle. Biochimie, 81(8-9) pp. 915–920.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0300-9084(99)00203-5


A myriad different constituents or elements (genes, proteins, lipids, ions, small molecules etc.) participate in numerous physico-chemical processes to create bacteria that can adapt to their environments to survive, grow and, via the cell cycle, reproduce. We explore the possibility that it is too difficult to explain cell cycle progression in terms of these elements and that an intermediate level of explanation is needed. This level is that of hyperstructures. A hyperstructure is large, has usually one particular function, and contains many elements. Non-equilibrium, or even dissipative, hyperstructures that, for example, assemble to transport and metabolize nutrients may comprise membrane domains of transporters plus cytoplasmic metabolons plus the genes that encode the hyperstructure's enzymes. The processes involved in the putative formation of hyperstructures include: metabolite-induced changes to protein affinities that result in metabolon formation, lipid-organizing forces that result in lateral and transverse asymmetries, post-translational modifications, equilibration of water structures that may alter distributions of other molecules, transertion, ion currents, emission of electromagnetic radiation and long range mechanical vibrations. Equilibrium hyperstructures may also exist such as topological arrays of DNA in the form of cholesteric liquid crystals. We present here the beginning of a picture of the bacterial cell in which hyperstructures form to maximize efficiency and in which the properties of hyperstructures drive the cell cycle.

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