Nucleoid Size Scaling and Intracellular Organization of Translation across Bacteria

Cell. 2019 May 30;177(6):1632-1648.e20. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.05.017.


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.

Keywords: cell size; intracellular organization; nucleocytoplasmic ratio; nucleoid; ribosome mobility; scaling properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Size
  • Cellular Structures / metabolism*
  • Cellular Structures / physiology*
  • Cytoplasm / physiology
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Organelles / metabolism
  • Prokaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • Prokaryotic Cells / physiology
  • Protein Biosynthesis / physiology*
  • Ribosomes / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA-Binding Proteins