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Replication-dependent size reduction precedes differentiation in Chlamydia trachomatis.

  • Author(s): Lee, Jennifer K;
  • Enciso, Germán A;
  • Boassa, Daniela;
  • Chander, Christopher N;
  • Lou, Tracy H;
  • Pairawan, Sean S;
  • Guo, Melody C;
  • Wan, Frederic YM;
  • Ellisman, Mark H;
  • Sütterlin, Christine;
  • Tan, Ming
  • et al.

Chlamydia trachomatis is the most common cause of bacterial sexually transmitted infection. It produces an unusual intracellular infection in which a vegetative form, called the reticulate body (RB), replicates and then converts into an elementary body (EB), which is the infectious form. Here we use quantitative three-dimensional electron microscopy (3D EM) to show that C. trachomatis RBs divide by binary fission and undergo a sixfold reduction in size as the population expands. Conversion only occurs after at least six rounds of replication, and correlates with smaller RB size. These results suggest that RBs only convert into EBs below a size threshold, reached by repeatedly dividing before doubling in size. A stochastic mathematical model shows how replication-dependent RB size reduction produces delayed and asynchronous conversion, which are hallmarks of the Chlamydia developmental cycle. Our findings support a model in which RB size controls the timing of RB-to-EB conversion without the need for an external signal.

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