FtsZ collaborates with penicillin binding proteins to generate bacterial cell shape in Escherichia coli

Archana Varma, Kevin D. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


The mechanisms by which bacteria adopt and maintain individual shapes remain enigmatic. Outstanding questions include why cells are a certain size, length, and width; why they are uniform or irregular; and why some branch while others do not. Previously, we showed that Escherichia coli mutants lacking multiple penicillin binding proteins (PBPs) display extensive morphological diversity. Because defective sites in these cells exhibit the structural and functional characteristics of improperly localized poles, we investigated the connection between cell division and shape. Here we show that under semipermissive conditions the temperature-sensitive FtsZ84 protein produces branched and aberrant cells at a high frequency in mutants lacking PBP 5, and this phenotype is exacerbated by the loss of additional peptidoglycan endopeptidases. Surprisingly, certain ftsZ84 strains lyse at the nonpermissive temperature instead of filamenting, and inhibition of wild-type FtsZ forces some mutants into tightly wound spirillum-like morphologies. The results demonstrate that significant aspects of bacterial shape are dictated by a previously unrecognized relationship between the septation machinery and ostensibly minor peptidoglycan-modifying enzymes and that under certain circumstances improper FtsZ function can destroy the structural integrity of the cell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6768-6774
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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