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Mol Syst Biol. 2011 Jan 4;7:457. doi: 10.1038/msb.2010.111.

Self-organized partitioning of dynamically localized proteins in bacterial cell division.

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Zentrum für Molekulare Biologie der Universität Heidelberg, DKFZ-ZMBH Alliance, Heidelberg, Germany.


How cells manage to get equal distribution of their structures and molecules at cell division is a crucial issue in biology. In principle, a feedback mechanism could always ensure equality by measuring and correcting the distribution in the progeny. However, an elegant alternative could be a mechanism relying on self-organization, with the interplay between system properties and cell geometry leading to the emergence of equal partitioning. The problem is exemplified by the bacterial Min system that defines the division site by oscillating from pole to pole. Unequal partitioning of Min proteins at division could negatively impact system performance and cell growth because of loss of Min oscillations and imprecise mid-cell determination. In this study, we combine live cell and computational analyses to show that known properties of the Min system together with the gradual reduction of protein exchange through the constricting septum are sufficient to explain the observed highly precise spontaneous protein partitioning. Our findings reveal a novel and effective mechanism of protein partitioning in dividing cells and emphasize the importance of self-organization in basic cellular processes.

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