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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2006 May;258(2):305-11.

The analysis of cell division and cell wall synthesis genes reveals mutationally inactivated ftsQ and mraY in a protoplast-type L-form of Escherichia coli.

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Leibniz Institute for Age Research, Jena, Germany.


Cell division and cell wall synthesis are tightly linked cellular processes for bacterial growth. A protoplast-type L-form Escherichia coli, strain LW1655F+, indicated that bacteria can divide without assembling a cell wall. However, the molecular basis of its phenotype remained unknown. To establish a first phenotype-genotype correlation, we analyzed its dcw locus, and other genes involved in division of E. coli. The analysis revealed defective ftsQ and mraY genes, truncated by a nonsense and a frame-shift mutation, respectively. Missense mutations were determined in the ftsA and ftsW products yielding amino-acid replacements at conserved positions. FtsQ and MraY, obviously nonfunctional in the L-form, are essential for cell division and cell wall synthesis, respectively, in all bacteria with a peptidoglycan-based cell wall. LW1655F+ is able to survive their loss-of-functions. This points to compensatory mechanisms for cell division in the absence of murein sacculus formation. Hence, this L-form represents an interesting model to investigate the plasticity of cell division in E. coli, and to demonstrate how concepts fundamental for bacterial life can be bypassed.

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