Bacterial nucleoid is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

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Bacterial chromosome, the nucleoid, is traditionally modeled as a rosette of DNA mega-loops, organized around proteinaceous central scaffold by nucleoid-associated proteins (NAPs), and mixed with the cytoplasm by transcription and translation. Electron microscopy of fixed cells confirms dispersal of the cloud-like nucleoid within the ribosome-filled cytoplasm. Here, I discuss evidence that the nucleoid in live cells forms DNA phase separate from riboprotein phase, the “riboid.” I argue that the nucleoid-riboid interphase, where DNA interacts with NAPs, transcribing RNA polymerases, nascent transcripts, and ssRNA chaperones, forms the transcription zone. An active part of phase separation, transcription zone enforces segregation of the centrally positioned information phase (the nucleoid) from the surrounding action phase (the riboid), where translation happens, protein accumulates, and metabolism occurs. I speculate that HU NAP mostly tiles up the nucleoid periphery—facilitating DNA mobility but also supporting transcription in the interphase. Besides extruding plectonemically supercoiled DNA mega-loops, condensins could compact them into solenoids of uniform rings, while HU could support rigidity and rotation of these DNA rings. The two-phase cytoplasm arrangement allows the bacterial cell to organize the central dogma activities, where (from the cell center to its periphery) DNA replicates and segregates, DNA is transcribed, nascent mRNA is handed over to ribosomes, mRNA is translated into proteins, and finally, the used mRNA is recycled into nucleotides at the inner membrane. The resulting information-action conveyor, with one activity naturally leading to the next one, explains the efficiency of prokaryotic cell design—even though its main intracellular transportation mode is free diffusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • DNA-plasm
  • HU
  • Hfq
  • RecA
  • SSB
  • SeqA
  • chromosome periodicity
  • nucleoid
  • phase separation
  • plectonemic supercoiling
  • riboid
  • sRNA
  • surface hydrophobicity
  • toroidal supercoiling
  • transcription factory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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