Accepted post-doctoral position at Northwestern University after receiving PhD
Now employed as Lead Microbiologist at Nalco Champion, Houston, TX
Formation of the FtsZ ring (Z ring) in Escherichia coli is the first step in assembly of the divisome, a molecular machine composed of 14 known proteins, most of which are required for cell division. Although the biochemical functions of most divisome proteins are unknown, several of these have overlapping roles in ensuring that the Z ring assembles at the cytoplasmic membrane and is active.
We identified a single amino acid change in FtsA, R286W, renamed FtsA*, that completely bypasses the requirement for ZipA in cell division. This and other data suggest that FtsA* is a hyperactive form of FtsA that can replace the multiple functions normally assumed by ZipA, which include stabilization of Z rings, recruitment of downstream cell division proteins, and anchoring the Z ring to the membrane. This is the first example of complete functional replacement of an essential prokaryotic cell division protein by another.
Cells expressing ftsA* with a complete deletion of ftsK are viable and divide, although many of these ftsK null cells formed multiseptate chains, suggesting a role in cell separation for FtsK. In addition, strains expressing extra ftsAZ, ftsQ, ftsB, zipA or ftsN, were also able to survive and divide in the absence of ftsK. The cytoplasmic and transmembrane domains of FtsQ were sufficient to allow viability and septum formation to ftsK deleted strains. These findings suggest that FtsK is normally involved in stabilizing the divisome and shares functional overlap with other cell division proteins.
As well as permitting the removal of other divisome components, the presence of FtsA* in otherwise wild-type cells accelerated Z-ring assembly, which resulted in a significant decrease in the average length of cells due to premature septation. In support of its role in Z-ring stability, we found that FtsA* suppressed the cell division inhibition caused by overexpressing FtsZ. FtsA* did not affect FtsZ turnover within the Z ring as measured by fluorescence recovery after photobleaching. Turnover of FtsA* in the ring was somewhat faster than wild-type FtsA. Yeast two-hybrid data suggest that FtsA* has an increased affinity for FtsZ relative to wild-type FtsA. These results indicate that FtsA* interacts with FtsZ more strongly, and its enhancement of Z ring assembly may explain why FtsA* can permit survival of cells lacking ZipA or FtsK.
Identifying the Roles of the Escherichia coli FtsZ-Associated Proteins by Minimizing the Requirements for Division