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Biophys J. 2002 Feb;82(2):618-27.

A dynamic model for determining the middle of Escherichia coli.

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Max Planck Institut für Strömungsforschung, D-37073 Göttingen, Germany.


Proper placement of the division septum is an essential part of bacterial cell division. In Escherichia coli, this process depends crucially on the proteins MinC, MinD, and MinE. The detailed mechanism by which these proteins determine the correct position of the division plane is currently unknown, but observed pole-to-pole oscillations of the corresponding distributions are thought to be of functional importance. Here, a theoretical approach toward an explanation of this dynamical behavior is reported. Emphasizing generic properties of the protein dynamics, two features are found to be sufficient for generating oscillations: first, a tendency of membrane bound MinD to cluster; and second, attachment to and detachment from the cell wall, which depends on the amount of molecules already attached. The model is in qualitative agreement with the presently existing experimental results and further tests of the underlying model assumptions are suggested. Finally, based on the analysis of the model a simple mechanism is proposed on how these proteins might initiate septal growth. In addition, to ensure correct positioning of the septum, the MinCDE complex could therefore also play an important role in cell cycle control.

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