Nanoscale Resolution of Microbial Fiber Degradation in Action

Meltem Tatlı, Sarah Moraïs, Omar E. Tovar-Herrera, Yannick J. Bomble, Edward A. Bayer, Ohad Medalia, Itzhak Mizrahi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus Citations


The lives of microbes unfold at the micron scale, and their molecular machineries operate at the nanoscale. Their study at these resolutions is key towards achieving a better understanding of their ecology. We focus on cellulose degradation of the canonical Clostridium thermocellum system to comprehend how microbes build and use their cellulosomal machinery at these nanometer scales. Degradation of cellulose, the most abundant organic polymer on Earth, is instrumental to the global carbon cycle. We reveal that bacterial cells form "cellulosome capsules" driven by catalytic product-dependent dynamics, which can increase the rate of hydrolysis. Biosynthesis of this energetically costly machinery and cell growth are decoupled at the single-cell level, hinting at a division-of-labor strategy through phenotypic heterogeneity. This novel observation highlights intra-population interactions as key to understanding rates of fiber degradation.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere76523
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, eLife Sciences Publications Ltd. All rights reserved.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-83069


  • cellulosome
  • cohesin
  • cryo-EM and cryo-ET
  • division of labor
  • dockerin
  • phenotypic heterogeneity
  • scaffoldin


Dive into the research topics of 'Nanoscale Resolution of Microbial Fiber Degradation in Action'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this