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Microbiology. 2010 Jun;156(Pt 6):1697-707. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.036335-0. Epub 2010 Mar 11.

The pneumococcal eukaryotic-type serine/threonine protein kinase StkP co-localizes with the cell division apparatus and interacts with FtsZ in vitro.

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Intercell AG, Vienna Biocenter 3, A-1030 Vienna, Austria.


The importance of serine/threonine phosphorylation in signalling and regulation of gene expression in prokaryotes has been widely recognized. Driven by our interest in StkP (the pneumococcal serine/threonine kinase homologue) for vaccine development, we studied its cellular localization. We found that the C-terminally located PASTA (penicillin-binding protein and serine/threonine kinase associated) domains, but not the N-terminal kinase domain of StkP, were located on the surface of live pneumococcal cells grown in vitro and were also accessible to antibodies during pneumococcal infection in mice and man. Most importantly, we discovered, by immunofluorescence microscopy, that StkP co-localized with the cell division apparatus. StkP and FtsZ, the prokaryotic tubulin homologue, co-localized at mid-cell in most cells. Formation and constriction of the ring-like structure of StkP followed the dynamic changes of FtsZ in dividing cells. This pattern resembles that of the 'late' divisome protein penicillin-binding protein 2X. The lack of StkP in gene deletion mutants did not disturb FtsZ ring formation, further suggesting that StkP joins the divisome after the FtsZ ring is assembled. We also present evidence that StkP binds and phosphorylates recombinant FtsZ in vitro; however, we could not detect changes in the phosphorylation of FtsZ in a stkP deletion strain relative to wild-type cells. Based on its cell-division-dependent localization and interaction with FtsZ, we propose that StkP plays a currently undefined role in cell division of pneumococcus.

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