Regulation of Bacterial Growth

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Science  07 Jun 1974:
Vol. 184, Issue 4141, pp. 1043-1050
DOI: 10.1126/science.184.4141.1043


Is the control of bacterial metabolism so complex? The answer can be found in a simple experiment. Two cultures of bacteria are grown in different mediums. One contains as the carbon and nitrogen sources a mixture of amino acids, while the other contains only glucose and ammonia, so that the cells must synthesize all of the amino acids. The results show that insofar as the cells in both cultures grow at comparable rates, they will have the same composition in terms of DNA, RNA, and protein (30). To explain this phenomena I have argued that through the control mechanisms responsible for the distribution of substrates in intermediary metabolism, the substrates of protein synthesis are produced at concentrations and rates commensurate with the ability of the environment to support growth. The provision of these substrates relative to the ability of the protein forming system to utilize them regulates the synthesis of ribosomal and transfer RNA, which, after adjustment for various modulating influences, such as nonfunctioning ribosomes or ribosomal RNA turnover, brings the number of functioning ribosomes to a point in keeping with the provision of external nutrients. The synthesis of messenger (or total) RNA, ribosomal proteins, and DNA, and the process of cell division, for example, are subject to their own controls, but through the burden they each place on intermediary metabolism, they provide a means for partitioning the cell's metabolic resources. It might be noted that this view may not be very far from the idea once held that the rate at which each of the transfer RNA's was changed by amino acids regulate the synthesis of bacterial RNA, but growth regulation is clearly more complicated than implied by that model (76).