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Genes Dev. 2002 Dec 15;16(24):3253-64.

A cytoskeleton-like role for the bacterial cell wall during engulfment of the Bacillus subtilis forespore.

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  • 1Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0349, USA.


A hallmark of bacterial endospore formation is engulfment, during which the membrane of one cell (the mother cell) migrates around the future spore, enclosing it in the mother cell cytoplasm. Bacteria lack proteins required for eukaryotic phagocytosis, and previously proteins required for membrane migration remained unidentified. Here we provide cell biological and genetic evidence that three membrane proteins synthesized in the mother cell are required for membrane migration as well as for earlier steps in engulfment. Biochemical studies demonstrate that one of these proteins, SpoIID, is a cell wall hydrolase, suggesting that membrane migration in bacteria can be driven by membrane-anchored cell wall hydrolases. We propose that the bacterial cell wall plays a role analogous to that of the actin and tubulin network of eukaryotic cells, providing a scaffold along which proteins can move.

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