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J Bacteriol. 2007 Nov;189(22):8044-52. Epub 2007 Aug 31.

Role of SufI (FtsP) in cell division of Escherichia coli: evidence for its involvement in stabilizing the assembly of the divisome.

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  • 1Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Uppal Road, Hyderabad 500007, India.


The function of SufI, a well-studied substrate of the TatABC translocase in Escherichia coli, is not known. It was earlier implicated in cell division, based on the finding that multiple copies of sufI suppressed the phenotypes of cells with mutations in ftsI (ftsI23), which encodes a divisomal transpeptidase. Recently, sufI was identified as both a multicopy suppressor gene and a synthetic lethal mutant of ftsEX, which codes for a division-specific putative ABC transporter. In this study, we show that sufI is essential for the viability of E. coli cells subjected to various forms of stress, including oxidative stress and DNA damage. The sufI mutant also exhibits sulA-independent filamentation, indicating a role in cell division. The phenotypes of the sufI mutant are suppressed by factors that stabilize FtsZ ring assembly, such as increased expression of cell division proteins FtsQAZ or FtsN or the presence of the gain-of-function ftsA* (FtsA R286W) mutation, suggesting that SufI is a divisomal protein required during stress conditions. In support of this, multicopy sufI suppressed the divisional defects of mutants carrying the ftsA12, ftsQ1, or ftsK44 allele but not those of mutants carrying ftsZ84. Most of the division-defective mutants, in particular those carrying a DeltaftsEX or ftsI23 allele, exhibited sensitivity to oxidative stress or DNA damage, and this sensitivity was also abolished by multiple copies of SufI. All of these data suggest that SufI is a division component involved in protecting or stabilizing the divisomal assembly under conditions of stress. Since sufI fulfils the requirements to be designated an fts gene, we propose that it be renamed ftsP.

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