PNAS Nexus. 2022 Jul 26;1(4):pgac134. doi: 10.1093/pnasnexus/pgac134. eCollection 2022 Sep.
All cells must increase their volumes in response to biomass growth to maintain intracellular mass density within physiologically permissive bounds. Here, we investigate the regulation of volume growth in the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis. To increase volume, bacteria enzymatically expand their cell envelopes and insert new envelope material. First, we demonstrate that cell-volume growth is determined indirectly, by expanding their envelopes in proportion to mass growth, similarly to the Gram-negative Escherichia coli, despite their fundamentally different envelope structures. Next, we studied, which pathways might be responsible for robust surface-to-mass coupling: We found that both peptidoglycan synthesis and membrane synthesis are required for proper surface-to-mass coupling. However, surprisingly, neither pathway is solely rate-limiting, contrary to wide-spread belief, since envelope growth continues at a reduced rate upon complete inhibition of either process. To arrest cell-envelope growth completely, the simultaneous inhibition of both envelope-synthesis processes is required. Thus, we suggest that multiple envelope-synthesis pathways collectively confer an important aspect of volume regulation, the coordination between surface growth, and biomass growth.