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Summary

The earliest event in bacterial cell division is the formation of a Z ring, composed of the tubulin-like FtsZ protein, at the division site at midcell. This ring then recruits several other division proteins and together they drive the formation of a division septum between two replicated chromosomes. Here we show that, in addition to forming a cytokinetic ring, FtsZ localizes in a helical-like pattern in vegetatively growing cells of Bacillus subtilis. FtsZ moves rapidly within this helix-like structure. Examination of FtsZ localization in individual live cells undergoing a single cell cycle suggests a new assembly mechanism for Z ring formation that involves a cell cycle-mediated multistep remodelling of FtsZ polymers. Our observations suggest that initially FtsZ localizes in a helical pattern, with movement of FtsZ within this structure occurring along the entire length of the cell. Next, movement of FtsZ in a helical-like pattern is restricted to a central region of the cell. Finally the FtsZ ring forms precisely at midcell. We further show that another division protein, FtsA, shown to interact with FtsZ prior to Z ring formation in B. subtilis, also localizes to similar helical patterns in vegetatively growing cells.