Bacillus subtilis MreB paralogues have different filament architectures and lead to shape remodelling of a heterologous cell system


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Like many bacteria, Bacillus subtilis cells contain three actin-like MreB proteins. We show that the three paralogues, MreB, Mbl and MreBH, have different filament architectures in a heterologous cell system, and form straight filaments, helices or ring structures, different from the regular helical arrangement in B. subtilis cells. However, when coexpressed, they colocalize into a single filamentous helical structure, showing that the paralogues influence each other's filament architecture. Ring-like MreBH structures can be converted into MreB-like helical filaments by a single point mutation affecting subunit contacts, showing that MreB paralogues feature flexible filament arrangements. Time-lapse and FRAP experiments show that filaments can extend as well as shrink at both ends, and also show internal rearrangement, suggesting that filaments consist of overlapping bundles of shorter filaments that continuously turn over. Upon induction in Escherichia coli cells, B. subtilis MreB (BsMreB) filaments push the cells into strikingly altered cell morphology, showing that MreB filaments can change cell shape. E. coli cells with a weakened cell wall were ruptured upon induction of BsMreB filaments, suggesting that the bacterial actin orthologue may exert force against the cell membrane and envelope, and thus possibly plays an additional mechanical role in bacteria.