Certain penicillin binding protein mutants of Escherichia coli grow with spirillum-like morphologies when the FtsZ protein is inhibited, suggesting that FtsZ might govern aspects of cell wall growth other than those strictly associated with septation. While investigating the mechanism of spiral cell formation, we discovered conditions for visualizing this second function of FtsZ. Normally, inhibiting the cytoskeleton protein MreB forces E. coli cells to grow as smoothly enlarging spheres from which the poles disappear, yielding coccoid or lemon-shaped forms. However, when FtsZ and MreB were inhibited simultaneously in a strain lacking PBP 5 and PBP 7, the resulting cells ballooned outward but retained conspicuous rod-shaped extensions at sites representing the original poles. This visual phenotype was paralleled by the biochemistry of sacculus growth. Muropeptides are usually inserted homogeneously into the lateral cell walls, but when FtsZ polymerization was inhibited, the incorporation of new material occurred mainly in the central regions of cells and was significantly lower in those portions of side walls abutting a pole. Thus, reduced precursor incorporation into side walls near the poles explained why these regions retained their rod-like morphology while the rest of the cell grew spherically. Also, inhibiting FtsZ increased the amount of pentapeptides in sacculi by about one-third. Finally, the MreB protein directed the helical or diagonal incorporation of new peptidoglycan into the wall, but the location of that incorporation depended on whether FtsZ was active. In sum, the results indicate that in addition to nucleating cell septation in E. coli, FtsZ can direct the insertion of new peptidoglycan into portions of the lateral wall.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology