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Self-Assembly of Bacterial Macrofibers: A System Based Upon Hierarchies of Helices

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 February 2011

Neil H. Mendelson
Affiliation:
University of Arizona, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Life Sciences South Building, Tucson, Arizona
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Abstract

Cylindrical-shaped cells of Bacillus subtilis (0.7 by 4 μm) are the building blocks of macrofibers, highly organized, helically twisted, multifilament structures millimeters to centimeters in length. The forces responsible for self-assembly and the cylinder-helix deformation trace to the assembly of cell wall polymers and restraint of the motions generated by cell growth. An hierarchical relationship exists involving: (i) molecular level events associated with cell surface assembly, which in turn govern, (ii) cellular level events concerned with motions that accompany cell growth, and these in turn drive, (iii) multicellular level events such as the folding and plying of cell filaments to form a mature macrofiber. Cell growth generates new material and engenders twisting of the cell cylinder along a screw axis as it elongates. The helix hand and degree of twist at the cellular level eventually dictate the hand and twist of the mature multifilament macrofiber. Although several different routes can lead to the initiation of macrofiber production, once initiated a repetitive cycle of folding and plying becomes established. The self-assembly proceeds until mechanical and geometrical factors preclude further folding cycles.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Materials Research Society 1992

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References

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