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J Bacteriol. 2009 Dec;191(24):7383-401. doi: 10.1128/JB.00811-09. Epub 2009 Aug 14.

Self-enhanced accumulation of FtsN at Division Sites and Roles for Other Proteins with a SPOR domain (DamX, DedD, and RlpA) in Escherichia coli cell constriction.

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Department of Molecular Biology & Microbiology, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106-4960, USA.


Of the known essential division proteins in Escherichia coli, FtsN is the last to join the septal ring organelle. FtsN is a bitopic membrane protein with a small cytoplasmic portion and a large periplasmic one. The latter is thought to form an alpha-helical juxtamembrane region, an unstructured linker, and a C-terminal, globular, murein-binding SPOR domain. We found that the essential function of FtsN is accomplished by a surprisingly small essential domain ((E)FtsN) of at most 35 residues that is centered about helix H2 in the periplasm. (E)FtsN contributed little, if any, to the accumulation of FtsN at constriction sites. However, the isolated SPOR domain ((S)FtsN) localized sharply to these sites, while SPOR-less FtsN derivatives localized poorly. Interestingly, localization of (S)FtsN depended on the ability of cells to constrict and, thus, on the activity of (E)FtsN. This and other results suggest that, compatible with a triggering function, FtsN joins the division apparatus in a self-enhancing fashion at the time of constriction initiation and that its SPOR domain specifically recognizes some form of septal murein that is only transiently available during the constriction process. SPOR domains are widely distributed in bacteria. The isolated SPOR domains of three additional E. coli proteins of unknown function, DamX, DedD, and RlpA, as well as that of Bacillus subtilis CwlC, also accumulated sharply at constriction sites in E. coli, suggesting that septal targeting is a common property of SPORs. Further analyses showed that DamX and, especially, DedD are genuine division proteins that contribute significantly to the cell constriction process.

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