Is Escherichia coli getting old?



Whether or not bacteria divide symmetrically, the inheritance of cell poles is always asymmetrical. Because each cell carries an old and a new pole, its daughters will not be the same. Tracking poles of cells and measuring their lengths and doubling times in micro-colonies, Stewart et al.1 observed that growth rate diminished in cells inheriting old poles and concluded that these cells are susceptible to aging. Here, their results are compared with studies on the variabilities of length and age at division. It is argued that the decreased growth rate in old pole cells falls within the expected variation and may therefore be sufficiently far from a catastrophe-like cell death through aging. BioEssays 27:770–774, 2005. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.