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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Dec 20;102(51):18602-7. Epub 2005 Dec 12.

The cell-shape protein MreC interacts with extracytoplasmic proteins including cell wall assembly complexes in Caulobacter crescentus.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


The bacterial actin homolog, MreB, forms helical cables within the cell that are required for maintenance of a rod shape. These helical structures are thought to be involved in the spatial organization of cell wall (peptidoglycan) synthesizing complexes of penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs). Here, we examined the role of the MreC cell shape protein in this process in Caulobacter crescentus. Subcellular fractionation experiments showed that MreC is a periplasmic protein and, as assayed by immunofluorescence microscopy, adopted helical or banded patterns along the cell length reminiscent of those formed by MreB and PBP2. The pattern of MreC and PBP2 localization remained when MreB cables were disrupted by treatment with the inhibitor A22. However, long-term absence of MreB led to cell shape changes and an eventual loss of MreC localization, suggesting that an independent structure, perhaps an intact peptidoglycan layer, contributes to the MreC localization pattern. Using affinity chromatography with MreC covalently bound to Sepharose, we isolated several PBPs from cell extracts that eluted from the column as heterogeneous complexes. In this same experiment, using mass spectrometry-based protein identification, we identified several outer membrane proteins, including TonB-dependent receptor transport proteins, that interacted with MreC. Imaging live cells containing fusions of these outer membrane proteins to green fluorescent protein showed that they adopted a subcellular localization pattern that was similar to that of MreC. These results suggest that MreC may function in the spatial organization of PBPs as well as other proteins that lie outside the cytoplasmic membrane.

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