Science 376(6600) , 1453-1458 ( 2022)
Cells of most bacterial species are around 2 micrometers in length, with some of the largest specimens reaching 750 micrometers. Using fluorescence, x-ray, and electron microscopy in conjunction with genome sequencing, we characterized Candidatus (Ca.) Thiomargarita magnifica, a bacterium that has an average cell length greater than 9000 micrometers and is visible to the naked eye. These cells grow orders of magnitude over theoretical limits for bacterial cell size, display unprecedented polyploidy of more than half a million copies of a very large genome, and undergo a dimorphic life cycle with asymmetric segregation of chromosomes into daughter cells. These features, along with compartmentalization of genomic material and ribosomes in translationally active organelles bound by bioenergetic membranes, indicate gain of complexity in the Thiomargarita lineage and challenge traditional concepts of bacterial cells.