A new slant to the Z ring and bacterial cell branch formation

Authors

  • Veronica L. Wells,

    1. Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Texas Medical School at Houston, 6431 Fannin, Houston, TX 77030, USA
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  • William Margolin

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Texas Medical School at Houston, 6431 Fannin, Houston, TX 77030, USA
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E-mail william.margolin@uth.tmc.edu; Tel. (+1) 713 500 5452; Fax (+1) 713 500 5499.

Summary

Rod-shaped bacteria such as Escherichia coli accurately maintain their shape from generation to generation. The cytoskeletal proteins MreB and FtsZ, which respectively guide parallel growth of the sidewall and perpendicular growth of the division septum, are important to maintain a straight sidewall and uniformly rounded cell poles. FtsZ normally assembles into a ring at the cell midpoint, called the Z ring, which is oriented perpendicular to the cell's axis and is thus in perfect position to guide growth of a perpendicular septum. In this issue of Molecular Microbiology, Potluri et al. show that low molecular weight penicillin binding proteins, particularly PBP5, have a role in maintaining the perpendicular geometry of the Z ring and subsequent septum in E. coli. When these factors are absent or perturbed, division septa are readily deformed, which results in abnormal cell poles that often bifurcate over time to generate branches. The data suggest that cellular branching in E. coli is specifically induced by aberrant septation events caused by mis-oriented Z rings and not by deformation of a growing cell pole or emergence of new tips from the sidewall, which are likely mechanisms of branching in other bacterial families.

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