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Summary

The fluid mosaic model of membrane structure has been revised in recent years as it has become evident that domains of different lipid composition are present in eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. Using membrane binding fluorescent dyes, we demonstrate the presence of lipid spirals extending along the long axis of cells of the rod-shaped bacterium Bacillus subtilis. These spiral structures are absent from cells in which the synthesis of phosphatidylglycerol is disrupted, suggesting an enrichment in anionic phospholipids. Green fluorescent protein fusions of the cell division protein MinD also form spiral structures and these were shown by fluorescence resonance energy transfer to be coincident with the lipid spirals. These data indicate a higher level of membrane lipid organization than previously observed and a primary role for lipid spirals in determining the site of cell division in bacterial cells.