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PLoS Genet. 2017 Sep 8;13(9):e1006999. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006999. eCollection 2017 Sep.

FtsEX-mediated regulation of the final stages of cell division reveals morphogenetic plasticity in Caulobacter crescentus.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America.
Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, United States of America.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, United States of America.


During its life cycle, Caulobacter crescentus undergoes a series of coordinated shape changes, including generation of a polar stalk and reshaping of the cell envelope to produce new daughter cells through the process of cytokinesis. The mechanisms by which these morphogenetic processes are coordinated in time and space remain largely unknown. Here we demonstrate that the conserved division complex FtsEX controls both the early and late stages of cytokinesis in C. crescentus, namely initiation of constriction and final cell separation. ΔftsE cells display a striking phenotype: cells are chained, with skinny connections between cell bodies resulting from defects in inner membrane fusion and cell separation. Surprisingly, the thin connections in ΔftsE cells share morphological and molecular features with C. crescentus stalks. Our data uncover unanticipated morphogenetic plasticity in C. crescentus, with loss of FtsE causing a stalk-like program to take over at failed division sites.

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