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  1. Abstract

    Adaptation dynamics on fitness landscapes is often studied theoretically in the strong-selection, weak-mutation regime. However, in a large population, multiple beneficial mutants can emerge before any of them fixes in the population. Competition between mutants is known as clonal interference, and while it is known to slow down the rate of adaptation (when compared to the strong-selection, weak-mutation model with the same parameters), how it affects the shape of long-term fitness trajectories in the presence of epistasis is an open question. Here, by considering how changes in fixation probabilities arising from weak clonal interference affect the dynamics of adaptation on fitness-parameterized landscapes, we find that the change in the shape of fitness trajectory arises only through changes in the supply of beneficial mutations (or equivalently, the beneficial mutation rate). Furthermore, a depletion of beneficial mutations as a population climbs up the fitness landscape can speed up the rescaled fitness trajectory (where adaptation speed is measured relative to its value at the start of the experiment), while an enhancement of the beneficial mutation rate does the opposite of slowing it down. Our findings suggest that by carrying out evolution experiments in both regimes (with and without clonal interference), one could potentially distinguish the different sources of macroscopic epistasis (fitness effect of mutations vs change in fraction of beneficial mutations).

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  2. Many bacterial species are helical in shape, including the widespread pathogen H. pylori . Motivated by recent experiments on H. pylori showing that cell wall synthesis is not uniform [J. A. Taylor, et al ., eLife , 2020, 9 , e52482], we investigate the possible formation of helical cell shape induced by elastic heterogeneity. We show, experimentally and theoretically, that helical morphogenesis can be produced by pressurizing an elastic cylindrical vessel with helical reinforced lines. The properties of the pressurized helix are highly dependent on the initial helical angle of the reinforced region. We find that steep angles result in crooked helices with, surprisingly, a reduced end-to-end distance upon pressurization. This work helps explain the possible mechanisms for the generation of helical cell morphologies and may inspire the design of novel pressure-controlled helical actuators. 
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  3. How cells regulate their cell cycles is a central question for cell biology. Models of cell size homeostasis have been proposed for bacteria, archaea, yeast, plant, and mammalian cells. New experiments bring forth high volumes of data suitable for testing existing models of cell size regulation and proposing new mechanisms. In this paper, we use conditional independence tests in conjunction with data of cell size at key cell cycle events (birth, initiation of DNA replication, and constriction) in the model bacterium Escherichia coli to select between the competing cell cycle models. We find that in all growth conditions that we study, the division event is controlled by the onset of constriction at midcell. In slow growth, we corroborate a model where replication-related processes control the onset of constriction at midcell. In faster growth, we find that the onset of constriction is affected by additional cues beyond DNA replication. Finally, we also find evidence for the presence of additional cues triggering initiations of DNA replication apart from the conventional notion where the mother cells solely determine the initiation event in the daughter cells via an adder per origin model. The use of conditional independence tests is a different approach in the context of understanding cell cycle regulation and it can be used in future studies to further explore the causal links between cell events. 
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  4. All cells – from bacteria to humans – tightly control their size as they grow and divide. Cells can also change the speed at which they grow, and the pattern of how fast a cell grows with time is called ‘mode of growth’. Mode of growth can be ‘linear’, when cells increase their size at a constant rate, or ‘exponential’, when cells increase their size at a rate proportional to their current size. A cell’s mode of growth influences its inner workings, so identifying how a cell grows can reveal information about how a cell will behave. Scientists can measure the size of cells as they age and identify their mode of growth using single cell imaging techniques. Unfortunately, the statistical methods available to analyze the large amounts of data generated in these experiments can lead to incorrect conclusions. Specifically, Kar et al. found that scientists had been using specific types of plots to analyze growth data that were prone to these errors, and may lead to misinterpreting exponential growth as linear and vice versa. This discrepancy can be resolved by ensuring that the plots used to determine the mode of growth are adequate for this analysis. But how can the adequacy of a plot be tested? One way to do this is to generate synthetic data from a known model, which can have a specific and known mode of growth, and using this data to test the different plots. Kar et al. developed such a ‘generative model’ to produce synthetic data similar to the experimental data, and used these data to determine which plots are best suited to determine growth mode. Once they had validated the best statistical methods for studying mode of growth, Kar et al. applied these methods to growth data from the bacterium Escherichia coli . This showed that these cells have a form of growth called ‘super-exponential growth’. These findings identify a strategy to validate statistical methods used to analyze cell growth data. Furthermore, this strategy – the use of generative models to produce synthetic data to test the accuracy of statistical methods – could be used in other areas of biology to validate statistical approaches. 
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  5. Abstract Homeostasis of protein concentrations in cells is crucial for their proper functioning, requiring steady-state concentrations to be stable to fluctuations. Since gene expression is regulated by proteins such as transcription factors (TFs), the full set of proteins within the cell constitutes a large system of interacting components, which can become unstable. We explore factors affecting stability by coupling the dynamics of mRNAs and proteins in a growing cell. We find that mRNA degradation rate does not affect stability, contrary to previous claims. However, global structural features of the network can dramatically enhance stability. Importantly, a network resembling a bipartite graph with a lower fraction of interactions that target TFs has a higher chance of being stable. Scrambling the E. coli transcription network, we find that the biological network is significantly more stable than its randomized counterpart, suggesting that stability constraints may have shaped network structure during the course of evolution. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
    Mechanical rupture, or lysis, of the cytoplasmic membrane is a common cell death pathway in bacteria occurring in response to β-lactam antibiotics. A better understanding of the cellular design principles governing the susceptibility and response of individual cells to lysis could indicate methods of potentiating β-lactam antibiotics and clarify relevant aspects of cellular physiology. Here, we take a single-cell approach to bacterial cell lysis to examine three cellular features—turgor pressure, mechanosensitive channels, and cell shape changes—that are expected to modulate lysis. We develop a mechanical model of bacterial cell lysis and experimentally analyze the dynamics of lysis in hundreds of single Escherichia coli cells. We find that turgor pressure is the only factor, of these three cellular features, which robustly modulates lysis. We show that mechanosensitive channels do not modulate lysis due to insufficiently fast solute outflow, and that cell shape changes result in more severe cellular lesions but do not influence the dynamics of lysis. These results inform a single-cell view of bacterial cell lysis and underscore approaches of combatting antibiotic tolerance to β-lactams aimed at targeting cellular turgor. 
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  7. null (Ed.)