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Summary

FtsN is a bitopic membrane protein and the last essential component to localize to the Escherichia coli cell division machinery, or divisome. The periplasmic SPOR domain of FtsN was previously shown to localize to the divisome in a self-enhancing manner, relying on the essential activity of FtsN and the peptidoglycan synthesis and degradation activities of FtsI and amidases respectively. Because FtsN has a known role in recruiting amidases and is predicted to stimulate the activity of FtsI, it follows that FtsN initially localizes to division sites in a SPOR-independent manner. Here, we show that the cytoplasmic and transmembrane domains of FtsN (FtsNCyto-TM) facilitated localization of FtsN independently of its SPOR domain but dependent on the early cell division protein FtsA. In addition, SPOR-independent localization preceded SPOR-dependent localization, providing a mechanism for the initial localization of FtsN. In support of the role of FtsNCyto-TM in FtsN function, a variant of FtsN lacking the cytoplasmic domain localized to the divisome but failed to complement an ftsN deletion unless it was overproduced. Simultaneous removal of the cytoplasmic and SPOR domains abolished localization and complementation. These data support a model in which FtsA–FtsN interaction recruits FtsN to the divisome, where it can then stimulate the peptidoglycan remodelling activities required for SPOR-dependent localization.