Characterizing non-exponential growth and bimodal cell size distributions in fission yeast: An analytical approach

Chen Jia, Abhyudai Singh, Ramon Grima*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Unlike many single-celled organisms, the growth of fission yeast cells within a cell cycle is not exponential. It is rather characterized by three distinct phases (elongation, septation, and reshaping), each with a different growth rate. Experiments also showed that the distribution of cell size in a lineage can be bimodal, unlike the unimodal distributions measured for the bacterium Escherichia coli. Here we construct a detailed stochastic model of cell size dynamics in fission yeast. The theory leads to analytic expressions for the cell size and the birth size distributions, and explains the origin of bimodality seen in experiments. In particular, our theory shows that the left peak in the bimodal distribution is associated with cells in the elongation phase, while the right peak is due to cells in the septation and reshaping phases. We show that the size control strategy, the variability in the added size during a cell cycle, and the fraction of time spent in each of the three cell growth phases have a strong bearing on the shape of the cell size distribution. Furthermore, we infer all the parameters of our model by matching the theoretical cell size and birth size distributions to those from experimental single-cell time-course data for seven different growth conditions. Our method provides a much more accurate means of determining the size control strategy (timer, adder or sizer) than the standard method based on the slope of the best linear fit between the birth and division sizes. We also show that the variability in added size and the strength of size control in fission yeast depend weakly on the temperature but strongly on the culture medium. More importantly, we find that stronger size homeostasis and larger added size variability are required for fission yeast to adapt to unfavorable environmental conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1009793
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2022


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