Personal tools

Microbial Cell and Development Biology


Microbial Cell and Development Biology

Adriano O. Henriques
Mariana Gomes de Pinho


Bacterial cells have long been viewed as “bags of enzymes” with randomly distributed macromolecules, such as proteins or DNA. Due to recent advances, particularly in fluorescence microscopy, we are now well aware thatbacteria are highly organized organisms, with dynamic cytoskeletal structures, a chromosome with a definedorganization, many proteins with specific sub-cellular addresses, specialized organelles, and complex differentiation pathways, which include adventures into multicellularity.

The objective of the course is to guide the students through the discovery of the intricate and dynamic organization of microbial cells during growth and development.

An equally important objective is to foster the development of skills in (i) critical analysis and interpretation of scientific papers; (ii) writing clear, concise and logically argued essays in a specific topic of their choice and (iii) giving clear, effective, well timed oral presentations with appropriate visual support.


A. Bacterial cell cycle and morphogenesis: i) cell cycle: organization and segregation of the bacterial chromosome; coordination between DNA segregation and cell division; ii) Cytoskeletal structures and cell morphogenesis: bacterial homologues of tubulin, actin and intermediate filament proteins.

B. Principles and mechanisms of protein sub-cellular localization: i) the “first-to-arrive” problem: cues for protein localization ii) The assembly of prokaryotic organelles: membrane- and protein-bound organelles. Establishing cell polarity.

C. Microbial development: i) microbial development in the context of earth´s natural history. Developmental programs in model organisms; social behavior and multicellular development; Streptomyces morphogenetics; ii) Developmental biology of Bacillus subtilis and related organisms: origin and evolution of sporulation. Developmental commitment. Compartmentalized gene expression and cell-cell communication. Morphological checkpoints. Structure and outputs of regulatory circuits. Impact of spores in biotechnology and biomedicine.

The students will have the opportunity to discuss scientific papers related to the topics presented in the lectures; for that, groups will be formed each of which will prepare the discussion of an article, part of the evaluation. The remaining afternoons will be reserved to independent study of the course content as well as for the preparation of the discussion of the selected articles. The global performance of the students and their participation throughout the course will also be taken into account.  

Main Bibliography

  1. “Cell Biology of Bacteria” L. Shapiro and R.M. Losick Eds (2011) CSHL Press.
  2. Adams, DW and J. Errington. Bacterial cell division: assembly, maintenance and disassembly of the Z ring. Nat. Rev. Microbiol. 7:642-563 (2009)
  3. Reyes-Lamothe, R. and Sherratt, D.J. The bacterial cell cycle, chromosome inheritance and cell growth Nat. Rev. Microbiol. 17: 467–478 (2019)
  4. Cabeen MT, and C Jacobs-Wagner. The bacterial cytoskeleton. Annu. Rev. Genet. 44: 365-392 (2010)
  5. Errington J. Regulation of endospore formation in Bacillus subtilis. Nat. Rev. Micro. 1:117–126 (2003)
  6. Laloux G, Jacobs-Wagner C. How do bacteria localize proteins to the cell pole? J Cell Sci 127:11-19 (2014)
  7. Flärdh, K, and M.J. Buttner. Streptomyces morphogenetics: dissecting differentiation in a filamentous bacterium. Nat. Rev. Microbiol. 7:36-49 (2009)
  8. Pinho MG, Kjos M, Veening JW. How to get (a)round: mechanisms controlling growth and division of coccoid bacteria. Nat Rev Microbiol. 11:601-614 (2013)
  9. Henriques, A.O, and C. P. Moran Jr. Structure, assembly, and function of the spore surface layers. Ann. Rev. Microbiol., 61:555-588 (2007)
  10. Singh, SP, and BL Montgomery. Determining cell shape: adaptive regulation of cyanobacterial cellular differentiation and morphology. Trends Microbiol. 19:278-285 (2011)
  11. Velicer, GJ and M Vos. Sociobiology of the myxobacteria Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 63:599–623 (2009)
  12. Uebe, R. and Schuler, D.. Magnetosome biogenesis in magnetotactic bacteria. Nature Rev Microbiol. 14:621-63 (2016)




Document Actions