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BMC Evol Biol. 2007 Mar 12;7:37.

A canonical FtsZ protein in Verrucomicrobium spinosum, a member of the Bacterial phylum Verrucomicrobia that also includes tubulin-producing Prosthecobacter species.

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School of Molecular and Microbial Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia. <>



The origin and evolution of the homologous GTP-binding cytoskeletal proteins FtsZ typical of Bacteria and tubulin characteristic of eukaryotes is a major question in molecular evolutionary biology. Both FtsZ and tubulin are central to key cell biology processes--bacterial septation and cell division in the case of FtsZ and in the case of tubulins the function of microtubules necessary for mitosis and other key cytoskeleton-dependent processes in eukaryotes. The origin of tubulin in particular is of significance to models for eukaryote origins. Most members of domain Bacteria possess FtsZ, but bacteria in genus Prosthecobacter of the phylum Verrucomicrobia form a key exception, possessing tubulin homologs BtubA and BtubB. It is therefore of interest to know whether other members of phylum Verrucomicrobia possess FtsZ or tubulin as their FtsZ-tubulin gene family representative.


Verrucomicrobium spinosum, a member of Phylum Verrucomicrobia of domain Bacteria, has been found to possess a gene for a protein homologous to the cytoskeletal protein FtsZ. The deduced amino acid sequence has sequence signatures and predicted secondary structure characteristic for FtsZ rather than tubulin, but phylogenetic trees and sequence analysis indicate that it is divergent from all other known FtsZ sequences in members of domain Bacteria. The FtsZ gene of V. spinosum is located within a dcw gene cluster exhibiting gene order conservation known to contribute to the divisome in other Bacteria and comparable to these clusters in other Bacteria, suggesting a similar functional role.


Verrucomicrobium spinosum has been found to possess a gene for a protein homologous to the cytoskeletal protein FtsZ. The results suggest the functional as well as structural homology of the V. spinosum FtsZ to the FtsZs of other Bacteria implying its involvement in cell septum formation during division. Thus, both bacteria-like FtsZ and eukaryote-like tubulin cytoskeletal homologs occur in different species of the phylum Verrucomicrobia of domain Bacteria, a result with potential major implications for understanding evolution of tubulin-like cytoskeletal proteins and the origin of eukaryote tubulins.

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