In Escherichia coli, division site placement is regulated by the dynamic behavior of the MinCDE proteins, which oscillate from pole to pole and confine septation to the centers of normal rod-shaped cells. Some current mathematical models explain these oscillations by considering interactions among the Min proteins without recourse to additional localization signals. So far, such models have been applied only to regularly shaped bacteria, but here we test these models further by employing aberrantly shaped E. coli cells as miniature reactors. The locations of MinCDE proteins fused to derivatives of green fluorescent protein were monitored in branched cells with at least three conspicuous poles. MinCDE most often moved from one branch to another in an invariant order, following a nonreversing clockwise or counterclockwise direction over the time periods observed. In cells with two short branches or nubs, the proteins oscillated symmetrically from one end to the other. The locations of FtsZ rings were consistent with a broad MinC-free zone near the branch junctions, and Min rings exhibited the surprising behavior of moving quickly from one possible position to another. Using a reaction-diffusion model that reproduces the observed MinCD oscillations in rod-shaped and round E. coli, we predict that the oscillation patterns in branched cells are a natural response of Min behavior in cellular geometries having different relative branch lengths. The results provide further evidence that Min protein oscillations act as a general cell geometry detection mechanism that can locate poles even in branched cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology