Point of View: Is cell size a spandrel?

  1. Ariel Amir  Is a corresponding author
  1. Harvard University, United States
2 figures


Phenomenological models for cell size control in bacteria.

This graph shows how the size at division, f(vb), depends on the size at birth (x-axis) in three different models. The parameter α is related to the slope of the function, and can continuously interpolate across different models. Its value can be determined from single-cell level correlations (Amir, 2014; see Marantan and Amir, 2016 for a recent generalization of this phase diagram). As α increases from 0 to 1, the correlations between mother and daughter cell sizes become weaker, yet the size distribution becomes narrower. The prevailing model for a critical size at initiation is effectively a ‘sizer’, and is inconsistent with recent experimental data supporting an ‘adder’.

Bacterial evolution and growth regulation.

E. coli cells evolving in a culture tube show both increasing fitness over time as well as increasing size. This can be naturally explained by a simple, specific regulation strategy, consistent with additional experiments. Figure adapted from Lenski and Travisano, 1994, with permission.


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  1. Ariel Amir
Point of View: Is cell size a spandrel?
eLife 6:e22186.