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Journal Articles eLife Year : 2023

Physical basis of the cell size scaling laws


Cellular growth is the result of passive physical constraints and active biological processes. Their interplay leads to the appearance of robust and ubiquitous scaling laws relating linearly cell size, dry mass, and nuclear size. Despite accumulating experimental evidence, their origin is still unclear. Here, we show that these laws can be explained quantitatively by a single model of size regulation based on three simple, yet generic, physical constraints defining altogether the Pump-Leak model. Based on quantitative estimates, we clearly map the Pump-Leak model coarse-grained parameters with the dominant cellular components. We propose that dry mass density homeostasis arises from the scaling between proteins and small osmolytes, mainly amino acids and ions. Our model predicts this scaling to naturally fail, both at senescence when DNA and RNAs are saturated by RNA polymerases and ribosomes, respectively, and at mitotic entry due to the counterion release following histone tail modifications. Based on the same physical laws, we further show that nuclear scaling results from a osmotic balance at the nuclear envelope and a large pool of metabolites, which dilutes chromatin counterions that do not scale during growth.
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Dates and versions

hal-04238489 , version 1 (06-12-2023)



Romain Rollin, Jean-François Joanny, Pierre Sens. Physical basis of the cell size scaling laws. eLife, 2023, 12, ⟨10.7554/eLife.82490⟩. ⟨hal-04238489⟩
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