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Curr Biol. 2005 Jul 12;15(13):R514-26.

Diverse paths to midcell: assembly of the bacterial cell division machinery.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


At the heart of bacterial cell division is a dynamic ring-like structure of polymers of the tubulin homologue FtsZ. This ring forms a scaffold for assembly of at least ten additional proteins at midcell, the majority of which are likely to be involved in remodeling the peptidoglycan cell wall at the division site. Together with FtsZ, these proteins are thought to form a cell division complex, or divisome. In Escherichia coli, the components of the divisome are recruited to midcell according to a strikingly linear hierarchy that predicts a step-wise assembly pathway. However, recent studies have revealed unexpected complexity in the assembly steps, indicating that the apparent linearity does not necessarily reflect a temporal order. The signals used to recruit cell division proteins to midcell are diverse and include regulated self-assembly, protein-protein interactions, and the recognition of specific septal peptidoglycan substrates. There is also evidence for a complex web of interactions among these proteins and at least one distinct subcomplex of cell division proteins has been defined, which is conserved among E. coli, Bacillus subtilis and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

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