Different Size, Shape and Arrangement of Bacterial Cells 4.4/5 (333)

Different Size, Shape and Arrangement of Bacterial Cells

Bacteria are prokaryotic, unicellular microorganisms, which lack chlorophyll pigments. The cell structure is simpler than that of other organisms as there is no nucleus or membrane bound organelles.

Due to the presence of a rigid cell wall, bacteria maintain a definite shape, though they vary as shape, size and structure.

Different Size, Shape and Arrangement of Bacterial Cells

When viewed under light microscope, most bacteria appear in variations of three major shapes: the rod (bacillus), the sphere (coccus) and the spiral type (vibrio). In fact, structure of bacteria has two aspects, arrangement and shape. So far as the arrangement is concerned, it may Paired (diplo), Grape-like clusters (staphylo) or Chains (strepto). In shape they may principally be Rods (bacilli), Spheres (cocci), and Spirals (spirillum).

Size of Bacterial Cell

Size of Bacterial Cells

The average diameter of spherical bacteria is 0.5-2.0 µm. For rod-shaped or filamentous bacteria, length is 1-10 µm and diameter is 0.25-1 .0 µm.

  • E. coli , a bacillus of about average size is 1.1 to 1.5 µm wide by 2.0 to 6.0 µm long.
  • Spirochaetes occasionally reach 500 µm in length and the cyanobacterium
  • Oscillatoria is about 7 µm in diameter.
  • The bacterium, Epulosiscium fishelsoni , can be seen with the naked eye (600 μm long by 80 μm in diameter).
  • One group of bacteria, called the Mycoplasmas, have individuals with size much smaller than these dimensions. They measure about 0.25 µ and are the smallest cells known so far. They were formerly known as pleuropneumonia-like organisms (PPLO).
  • Mycoplasma gallicepticum, with a size of approximately 200 to 300 nm are thought to be the world smallest bacteria.
  • Thiomargarita namibiensis is world’s largest bacteria, a gram-negative Proteobacterium found in the ocean sediments off the coast of Namibia. Usually it is 0.1—0.3 mm (100—300 µm) across, but bigger cells have been observed up to 0.75 mm (750 µm).

Thus a few bacteria are much larger than the average eukaryotic cell (typical plant and animal cells are around 10 to 50 µm in diameter).

Shape of Bacterial Cell

The three basic bacterial shapes are coccus (spherical), bacillus (rod-shaped), and spiral (twisted), however pleomorphic bacteria can assume several shapes.

Shape of Bacterial Cell

Shape of Bacterial Cell

  • Cocci (or coccus for a single cell) are round cells, sometimes slightly flattened when they are adjacent to one another.
  • Bacilli (or bacillus for a single cell) are rod-shaped bacteria.
  • Spirilla (or spirillum for a single cell) are curved bacteria which can range from a gently curved shape to a corkscrew-like spiral.  Many spirilla are rigid and capable of movement.  A special group of spirilla known as spirochetes are long, slender, and flexible.

 

 

Arrangement of Cocci

Cocci bacteria can exist singly, in pairs (as diplococci ), in groups of four (as tetrads ), in chains (as streptococci ), in clusters (as stapylococci ), or in cubes consisting of eight cells (as sarcinae). Cocci may be oval, elongated, or flattened on one side. Cocci may remain attached after cell division. These group characteristics are often used to help identify certain cocci.

1. Diplococci

The cocci are arranged in pairs.

Examples: Streptococcus pneumoniae, Moraxella catarrhalis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, etc.

Diplococci and Streptococci

2. Streptococci

The cocci are arranged in chains, as the cells divide in one plane.

Examples: Streptococcus pyogenes, Streptococcus agalactiae

3. Tetrads

Tetrads

The cocci are arranged in packets of four cells, as the cells divide in two plains.

Examples: Aerococcus, Pediococcus and Tetragenococcus

4. Sarcinae

Sarcinae

The cocci are arranged in a cuboidal manner, as the cells are formed by regular cell divisions in three planes. Cocci that divide in three planes and remain in groups cube like groups of eight.

Examples: Sarcina ventriculi, Sarcina ureae, etc.

5. Staphylococci

Staphylococci

The cocci are arranged in grape-like clusters formed by irregular cell divisions in three plains.

Examples: Staphylococcus aureus

Arrangement of Bacilli

The cylindrical or rod-shaped bacteria are called ‘bacillus’ (plural: bacilli).

1. Diplobacilli

Diplobacilli

Most bacilli appear as single rods. Diplobacilli appear in pairs after division.

Example of Single Rod: Bacillus cereus
Examples of Diplobacilli: Coxiella burnetii, Moraxella bovis, Klebsiella rhinoscleromatis, etc.

2. Streptobacilli

Streptobacilli

The bacilli are arranged in chains, as the cells divide in one plane.

Examples: Streptobacillus moniliformis

3. Coccobacilli

Coccobacilli

These are so short and stumpy that they appear ovoid. They look like coccus and bacillus.

Examples: Haemophilus influenzaeGardnerella vaginalis, and Chlamydia trachomatis

4. Palisades

Palisades

The bacilli bend at the points of division following the cell divisions, resulting in a palisade arrangement resembling a picket fence and angular patterns that look like Chinese letters.

Example: Corynebacterium diphtheriae

Arrangement of Spiral Bacteria

Spirilla (or spirillum for a single cell) are curved bacteria which can range from a gently curved shape to a corkscrew-like spiral.  Many spirilla are rigid and capable of movement.  A special group of spirilla known as spirochetes are long, slender, and flexible.

1. Vibrio

Vibrio

They are comma-shaped bacteria with less than one complete turn or twist in the cell.

Example: Vibrio cholerae

2. Spirilla

Spirilla

They have rigid spiral structure. Spirillum with many turns can superficially resemble spirochetes. They do not have outer sheath and endoflagella, but have typical bacterial flagella.

Example: Campylobacter jejuni, Helicobacter pyloriSpirillum winogradskyi, etc.

3. Spirochetes

Spirochetes

Spirochetes have a helical shape and flexible bodies. Spirochetes move by means of axial filaments, which look like flagella contained beneath a flexible external sheath but lack typical bacterial flagella.

Examples: Leptospira species (Leptospira interrogans), Treponema pallidumBorrelia recurrentis, etc.

Others Shapes and Arrangements of Bacteria

1. Filamentous Bacteria

Filamentous bacteria

They are very long thin filament-shaped bacteria. Some of them form branching filaments resulting in a network of filaments called ‘mycelium’.

Example: Candidatus Savagella

2. Star Shaped Bacteria

Star Shaped Bacteria

Example: Stella

3. Rectangular Bacteria

Rectangular Bacteria

Examples: Haloarcula spp (H. vallismortis, H. marismortui)

4. Pleomorphic Bacteria

Pleomorphic Bacteria

These bacteria do not have any characteristic shape unlike all others described above. They can change their shape. In pure cultures, they can be observed to have different shapes.

Examples: Mycoplasma pneumoniae, M. genitalium, etc.

Different Size, Shape and Arrangement of Bacterial Cells

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Different Size, Shape and Arrangement of Bacterial Cells

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The Author

Sagar Aryal

I am Sagar Aryal, a passionate Microbiologist and the Scientific Blogger. I did my Master's Degree in Medical Microbiology and currently working as a Lecturer at Department of Microbiology, St. Xavier's College, Kathmandu, Nepal. I am particularly interested in research related to Medical Microbiology and Virology. Find me on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin !!!

40 Comments

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  1. Nice listing, although there is a serious typo in the section on the size of bacteria. You state that Epulosisicum fishelsoni has a certain size. First, the genus name is Epulopiscium. The “piscium” part comes from the fact that they live inside of fish. Second, and more egregious, is that you state the length to be 600mm. That is about 2/3 of a meter, which is longer than most of the fish they inhabit. I think your units here should be micro-meters not milli-meters.
    Cheers

    1. Thank you so much for the correction. I corrected it now 🙂
      Cheerss

      1. Gram +/_ bacteria identification flow chart with photos ??? A method which makes it easy to remember

  2. Thank you Sagar Ji,

    Compiled very precisely and point to point manner, I really appreciate your efforts. In near future I am planing to publish a general microbiology book and a manual for graduate students. Would you like to collaborate with me? I am look forward to hearing from you.

    Many thanks
    Dr. Poonam

  3. was very useful thanks

  4. Thanks
    Provide me knowledge about this on my email I will be very thankful to u if possible

    1. *very you immigrant

  5. thank you Sagar Aryal for your notes and the books that you provided, thank you so much.you are imparting something good that will long lasting in me.

  6. Thiomargarita namibiensis is a gram-negative coccoid Proteobacterium, found in the ocean sediments of the continental shelf of Namibia. It is the largest bacterium ever discovered, as a rule 0.1–0.3 mm (100–300 µm) in diameter, but sometimes attaining 0.75 mm (750 µm). Cells of Thiomargarita namibiensis are large enough to be visible to the naked eye. Although the species holds the record for the most massive bacterium, Epulopiscium fishelsoni – previously discovered in the gut of surgeonfish – grows slightly longer, but narrower.

  7. It was helpfull

  8. For newest information you have to go to see internet
    and on internet I found this web site as a finest site
    for hottest updates.

  9. It’s Awesome!!!! It helped me a lot

  10. Please I need at least 3 examples of bacteria with each shape. Thanks.

  11. siddhartha (DMLT)

    thanks for giving this for help of study us.

  12. thanks! my studying has just gotten better

  13. Dr. Himanshu D. Bhimani

    thank you Sagar. you are preparing interesting notes with good diagram/pictures.
    keep it up

  14. I like your books. Looking forward to seeing more of it especially books on viruses.

  15. Thanks mister. Your writeup was of great help to me.

  16. i need more information about bacteria…. =)

  17. i appreciate your effort

  18. It’s very easy to find out any matter on net as compared
    to textbooks, as I found this piece of writing at this site.

  19. Please send me more information about microbiology.

  20. your notes are really of great help. I wish you were my supervisor or lecturer. please I would like to know if you have a writeup on CLEF agar.
    thanks

  21. Your information is very good sir. I need to clinical microbiology(bacteriology) and staining.

  22. Krishna Rajagopal, Emeritus Professor of Chem Eng

    Excellent and informative. Useful summary of topics in Microbiology for a newcomer like me.With best regards

  23. Abdullahi, Isa Obansa

    Very interesting and simplified information, I really appreciate it.

  24. your infomation is very good sir.I would like to communicate with you. my E mail is w.t.binoli@gmail.com

  25. i need books in clinical microbiology specially bacteriology

  26. i need books clinical microbiology specially bacteriology

  27. Excelent information, very interesting!!! Thanks!!

  28. Jolanta, clinical diagnostics

    Very interesting information. But what is Steptobacilli? Is that also part of human microflora, is it pathogenic??

    1. its a pathogenic

  29. mohammed rasheed

    It is very good and interesting for me. I would like to communicate with you, if you can

    G.thanks

  30. It is very good and interesting for me. I would like to communicate with you, if you want.
    Best regards,
    Igor Styriak

    1. Thanks sir, I would love to communicate with you. My email address is broneps1@gmail.com
      Thanks,

  31. Your infomation is best in micobiology i want to know more about microbilogy

  32. I need books in microbiology sugar analysis

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