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Summary

The assembly of the Z ring is the earliest step in bacterial cell division. In Escherichia coli this assembly requires either FtsA or ZipA which bind to a conserved, C-terminal 17 amino acid motif in FtsZ and to the membrane. The FtsZ–ZipA interaction is well characterized; however, nothing is known about the region of FtsA involved in the interaction with FtsZ even though the FtsA–FtsZ interaction is nearly ubiquitous in Eubacteria. FtsA is proposed to bind to the membrane through its conserved C-terminal amphiphatic helix before efficiently interacting with FtsZ. Based upon this model we designed a genetic screen to identify mutants specifically impaired for the FtsA–FtsZ interaction. The mutants obtained retain the ability to be targeted to the membrane but fail to be recruited to the Z ring or interact with FtsZ in the yeast two-hybrid system. These mutants do not complement an ftsA-depletion strain. Through this approach we have identified a region of FtsA containing some invariant residues which is required for binding to FtsZ. The results support our model that FtsA is targeted to the membrane before it interacts with FtsZ and demonstrates that this interaction plays an essential role in E. coli cell division.