Microorganisms maintain crowding homeostasis

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2017 May;15(5):309-318. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro.2017.17. Epub 2017 Mar 27.


Macromolecular crowding affects the mobility of biomolecules, protein folding and stability, and the association of macromolecules with each other. Local differences in crowding that arise as a result of subcellular components and supramolecular assemblies contribute to the structural organization of the cytoplasm. In this Opinion article we discuss how macromolecular crowding affects the physicochemistry of the cytoplasm and how this, in turn, affects microbial physiology. We propose that cells maintain the overall concentration of macromolecules within a narrow range and discuss possible mechanisms for achieving crowding homeostasis. In addition, we propose that the term 'homeocrowding' is used to describe the process by which cells maintain relatively constant levels of macromolecules.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytoplasm / physiology*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Macromolecular Substances / metabolism*
  • Osmotic Pressure / physiology*
  • Protein Folding
  • Water


  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Water