Rethinking cell growth models

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Abstract

The minimal description of a growing cell consists of self-replicating ribosomes translating the cellular proteome. While neglecting all other cellular components, this model provides key insights into the control and limitations of growth rate. It shows, for example, that growth rate is maximized when ribosomes work at full capacity, explains the linear relation between growth rate and the ribosome fraction of the proteome and defines the maximal possible growth rate. This ribosome-centered model also highlights the challenge of coordinating cell growth with related processes such as cell division or nutrient production. Coordination is promoted when ribosomes don't translate at maximal capacity, as it allows escaping strict exponential growth. Recent data support the notion that multiple cellular processes limit growth. In particular, increasing transcriptional demand may be as deleterious as increasing translational demand, depending on growth conditions. Consistent with the idea of trade-off, cells may forgo maximal growth to enable more efficient interprocess coordination and faster adaptation to changing conditions.

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