Contribution of different macromolecules to the diffusion of a 40 nm particle in Escherichia coli

José Losa, Matthias Heinemann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Due to the high concentration of proteins, nucleic acids and other macromolecules, the bacterial cytoplasm is typically described as a crowded environment. However, the extent to which each of these macromolecules individually affects the mobility of macromolecular complexes, and how this depends on growth conditions, is presently unclear. In this study, we sought to quantify the crowding experienced by an exogenous 40 nm fluorescent particle in the cytoplasm of E. coli under different growth conditions. By performing single particle tracking measurements in cells selectively depleted of DNA and/or mRNA, we determined the contribution to crowding of mRNA, DNA and remaining cellular components, i.e., mostly proteins and ribosomes. To estimate this contribution to crowding, we quantified the difference of the particle's diffusion coefficient in conditions with and without those macromolecules. We found that the contributions of the three classes of components were of comparable magnitude, being largest in the case of proteins and ribosomes. We further found that the contributions of mRNA and DNA to crowding were significantly larger than expected based on their volumetric fractions alone. Finally, we found that the crowding contributions change only slightly with the growth conditions. These results reveal how various cellular components partake in crowding of the cytoplasm and the consequences this has for the mobility of large macromolecular complexes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1211-1221
Number of pages26
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number10
Early online date29-Mar-2024
Publication statusPublished - 21-May-2024


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