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Mol Microbiol. 2005 Oct;58(2):596-612.

Evidence for functional overlap among multiple bacterial cell division proteins: compensating for the loss of FtsK.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Texas Medical School, 6431 Fannin, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


In Escherichia coli, at least 12 proteins colocalize to the cell midpoint, assembling into a membrane-associated protein machine that forms the division septum. Many of these proteins, including FtsK, are essential for viability but their functions in cell division are unknown. Here we show that the essential function of FtsK in cell division can be partially bypassed. Cells containing either the ftsA R286W mutation or a plasmid carrying the ftsQAZ genes suppressed a ftsK44(ts) allele efficiently. Moreover, ftsA R286W or multicopy ftsQAZ, which can largely bypass the requirement for the essential cell division gene zipA, allowed cells with a complete deletion of ftsK to survive and divide, although many of these ftsK null cells formed multiseptate chains. Green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusions to FtsI and FtsN, which normally depend on FtsK to localize to division sites, localized to division sites in the absence of FtsK, indicating that FtsK is not directly involved in their recruitment. Cells expressing additional ftsQ, and to a lesser extent ftsB and ftsN, were able to survive and divide in the absence of ftsK, although cell chains were often formed. Surprisingly, the cytoplasmic and transmembrane domains of FtsQ, while not sufficient to complement an ftsQ null mutant, conferred viability and septum formation in the absence of ftsK. These findings suggest that the N-terminal domain of FtsK is normally involved in stability of the division protein machine and shares functional overlap with FtsQ, FtsB, FtsA, ZipA and FtsN.

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