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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jul 6;107(27):12281-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1005485107. Epub 2010 Jun 21.

Membrane potential is important for bacterial cell division.

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Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology, Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle NE2 4AX, United Kingdom.


Many cell division-related proteins are located at specific positions in the bacterial cell, and this organized distribution of proteins requires energy. Here, we report that the proton motive force, or more specifically the (trans)membrane potential, is directly involved in protein localization. It emerged that the membrane potential modulates the distribution of several conserved cell division proteins such as MinD, FtsA, and the bacterial cytoskeletal protein MreB. We show for MinD that this is based on the membrane potential stimulated binding of its C-terminal amphipathic helix. This function of the membrane potential has implications for how these morphogenetic proteins work and provide an explanation for the effects observed with certain antimicrobial compounds.

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