Nucleoid Size Scaling and Intracellular Organization of Translation across Bacteria

William T. Gray, Sander K. Govers, Yingjie Xiang, Bradley R. Parry, Manuel Campos, Sangjin Kim, Christine Jacobs-Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The scaling of organelles with cell size is thought to be exclusive to eukaryotes. Here, we demonstrate that similar scaling relationships hold for the bacterial nucleoid. Despite the absence of a nuclear membrane, nucleoid size strongly correlates with cell size, independent of changes in DNA amount and across various nutrient conditions. This correlation is observed in diverse bacteria, revealing a near-constant ratio between nucleoid and cell size for a given species. As in eukaryotes, the nucleocytoplasmic ratio in bacteria varies greatly among species. This spectrum of nucleocytoplasmic ratios is independent of genome size, and instead it appears linked to the average population cell size. Bacteria with different nucleocytoplasmic ratios have a cytoplasm with different biophysical properties, impacting ribosome mobility and localization. Together, our findings identify new organizational principles and biophysical features of bacterial cells, implicating the nucleocytoplasmic ratio and cell size as determinants of the intracellular organization of translation. Different bacterial species have different characteristic nucleocytoplasmic ratios, impacting the biophysical properties of the cytosol and the spatial distribution of translation machinery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1632-1648.e20
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 30 2019


  • cell size
  • intracellular organization
  • nucleocytoplasmic ratio
  • nucleoid
  • ribosome mobility
  • scaling properties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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    Gray, W. T., Govers, S. K., Xiang, Y., Parry, B. R., Campos, M., Kim, S., & Jacobs-Wagner, C. (2019). Nucleoid Size Scaling and Intracellular Organization of Translation across Bacteria. Cell, 177(6), 1632-1648.e20.