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Host cell variations resulting from F plasmid-controlled replication of the Escherichia coli chromosome.

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  • Research Article


Cell size and DNA concentration were measured in Escherichia coli K-12 ET64. This strain carries a dnaA (Ts) mutation that has been suppressed by the insertion of the F plasmid into the chromosome. ET64 can grow in a balanced steady state of exponential growth at the restrictive temperature for its dnaA allele (39 degrees C), in which chromosome replication is controlled by the F plasmid, and at the permissive temperature (30 degrees C), in which chromosome replication is controlled by dnaA-oriC. When cells grown at the indicated temperatures were compared, it was observed that at 39 degrees C, the cell mass increased and the amount of cellular DNA decreased slightly; therefore, the DNA concentration was strongly reduced. These changes can neither be explained by the reduction of the generation time (which is only 10-15%) nor from observed changes in the replication time and in the time between DNA synthesis termination and cell division. Variations were mainly due to the increase in cell mass per origin of replication, at initiation, in cells grown at 39 degrees C. Control of chromosome replication by the F plasmid appears to be the reason for the increase in the initiation mass. Other possible causes, such as the modification of growth temperature, the generation time, or both, were discarded. These observations suggest that at one growth rate, the F plasmid replicates at a particular cell mass to F particle number ratio, and that this ratio is higher than the cell mass to oriC ratio at the initiation of chromosome replication. This fact might be significant to coordinate the replication of two different replicons in the same cell.

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