Precise division of a bacterial cell

The recent development of cell biology techniques for bacteria to allow visualization of fundamental processes in time and space, and their use in synchronous populations of cells, has resulted in a dramatic increase in our understanding of cell division and its regulation in these tiny cells. Cell division in bacteria is driven by a cytoskeletal ring structure, the Z ring, composed of polymers of the tubulin-like protein FtsZ, at the division site precisely at midcell. Z-ring formation must be tightly regulated to ensure faithful cell division, and several mechanisms that influence the positioning and timing of Z-ring assembly have been described. Several membrane-associated division proteins are then recruited to this ring to form a complex, the divisome, which causes invagination of the cell envelope layers to form a division septum.

Another important but as yet poorly understood aspect of cell division regulation is the need to coordinate division with cell growth and nutrient availability. How bacteria coordinate cell cycle processes with nutrient availability and growth is a fundamental yet unresolved question in microbiology. The deletion of the gene encoding pyruvate kinase (pyk), which produces pyruvate in the final reaction of glycolysis, rescues the assembly defect of a temperature-sensitive ftsZ mutant and has significant effects on Z-ring formation in wild-type B. subtilis cells. Addition of exogenous pyruvate restores normal division in the absence of the pyruvate kinase enzyme, implicating pyruvate as a key metabolite in the coordination of bacterial growth and division (mBio 2014).

 

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