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Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2002 Dec;66(12):2658-62.

Novel S-benzylisothiourea compound that induces spherical cells in Escherichia coli probably by acting on a rod-shape-determining protein(s) other than penicillin-binding protein 2.

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Department of Bioengineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 4259 Nagatsuta, Midori-ku, Yokohama 226-8501, Japan.


Random screening for inhibitors of chromosome partitioning in Escherichia coli was done by the anucleate cell blue assay. A novel S-benzylisothiourea derivative, S-(3,4-dichlorobenzyl)isothiourea, tentatively named A22, was found to induce spherical cells and spherical anucleate cells in E. coli. Mecillinam, a specific inhibitor of penicillin-binding protein 2, which induces spherical cells in E. coli, also caused anucleate cell production. Spherical cells induced by treatment with either A22 or mecillinam varied in size, and anucleate cells seemed to be more frequent among the smaller cells. These results suggest that loss of the rod shape in E. coli leads to asymmetric cell division that results in production of anucleate cells. No competition was observed even in the presence of a 10-fold excess A22 in an in vitro assay of 14C-penicillin G binding, but mecillinam specifically inhibited binding of 14C-penicillin G to penicillin-binding protein 2. Simultaneous treatment with mecillinam and cephalexin, a specific inhibitor of penicillin-binding protein 3, induced lysis of E. coli cells, but a combination of A22 and cephalexin did not. These results suggest that the target molecule(s) of A22 was not penicillin-binding protein 2. A22 may act on a rod-shape-determining protein(s) other than penicillin-binding protein 2, such as RodA or MreB.

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