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Summary

Toxin–antitoxin (TA) systems of free-living bacteria have recently demonstrated that these toxins inhibit cell growth by targeting essential functions of cellular metabolism. Here we show that YeeV toxin inhibits cell division, leads to a change in morphology and lysis of Escherichia coli cells. YeeV interacts with two essential cytoskeleton proteins, FtsZ and MreB. Purified YeeV inhibits both the GTPase activity and the GTP-dependent polymerization of FtsZ. YeeV also inhibits ATP-dependent polymerization of MreB. Truncated C-terminal deletions of YeeV result in elongation of cells, and a deletion of the first 15 amino acids from the N-terminus of YeeV caused lemon-shaped cell formation. The YeeV toxin is distinct from other well-studied toxins: it directs the binding of two cytoskeletal proteins and inhibits FtsZ and MreB simultaneously.