The same tendency that causes soap bubbles to achieve a minimum surface area for the volume enclosed seems to account for many of the features of growth and division of bacteria, including both bacilli and cocci. It is only necessary to assume that growth takes place in zones and that only in these zones does the tension caused by hydrostatic pressure create the strain that forces the cell to increase the wall area. The stress developed by osmotic pressure creates strains that significantly lower the free energy of bond splitting by hydrolysis or transfer. We believe this is sufficient to make growing wall have some of the properties ordinarily associated with surface tension. The feature common to all bacterial cell wall growth is that peptidoglycan is inserted under strain-free conditions. Only after the covalent links have been formed are the intervening stressed peptide bonds cleaved so that the new unit supports the stress due to hydrostatic pressure.

The present paper analyses the growth of in these terms. This is a particularly simple case and detailed data concerning morphology are available. The best fit to the data is achieved by assuming that growth takes place in a narrow region near the splitting septum and that the septal material is already under tension as it is externalized and is twice as thick as the external wall throughout the development of the nascent poles. Constancy of the ratio of hydrostatic pressure to the effective surface tension, , is also consistent with electron microscopic observations.


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