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Summary

The cytokinetic Z ring is required for bacterial cell division. It consists of polymers of FtsZ, the bacterial ancestor of eukaryotic tubulin, linked to the cytoplasmic membrane. Formation of a Z ring in Escherichia coli occurs as long as one of two proteins, ZipA or FtsA, is present. Both of these proteins bind FtsZ suggesting that they might function to tether FtsZ filaments to the membrane. Although ZipA has a transmembrane domain and therefore can function as a membrane anchor, interaction of FtsA with the membrane has not been explored. In this study we demonstrate that FtsA, which is structurally related to eukaryotic actin, has a conserved C-terminal amphipathic helix that is essential for FtsA function. It is required to target FtsA to the membrane and subsequently to the Z ring. As FtsA is much more widely conserved in bacteria than ZipA, it is likely that FtsA serves as the principal membrane anchor for the Z ring.