Synchronized Swarmers and Sticky Stalks: Caulobacter crescentus as a Model for Bacterial Cell Biology

Jordan M. Barrows, Erin D. Goley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


First isolated and classified in the 1960s, Caulobacter crescentus has been instrumental in the study of bacterial cell biology and differentiation. C. crescentus is a Gram-negative alphaproteobacterium that exhibits a dimorphic life cycle composed of two distinct cell types: a motile swarmer cell and a nonmotile, division-competent stalked cell. Progression through the cell cycle is accentuated by tightly controlled biogenesis of appendages, morphological transitions, and distinct localization of developmental regulators. These features as well as the ability to synchronize populations of cells and follow their progression make C. crescentus an ideal model for answering questions relevant to how development and differentiation are achieved at the single-cell level. This review will explore the discovery and development of C. crescentus as a model organism before diving into several key features and discoveries that have made it such a powerful organism to study. Finally, we will summarize a few of the ongoing areas of research that are leveraging knowledge gained over the last century with C. crescentus to highlight its continuing role at the forefront of cell and developmental biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Caulobacter
  • Caulobacter crescentus
  • bacterial cell biology
  • cell cycle
  • differentiation
  • model organism
  • morphogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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