The tubulin homolog FtsZ is the major cytoskeletal protein in bacterial cytokinesis. Although a dozen other proteins are essential for division in E. coli, we have recently demonstrated that FtsZ alone is sufficient to reconstitute Z rings in liposomes. Furthermore, these artificial Z rings generate a constriction force without any other proteins. We propose to further these studies in a number of directions to investigate the mechanism of assembly and force generation. One new direction will be to image the growth of single FtsZ filaments in vitro using TIRF microscopy. This should determine if the filaments are undergoing dynamic instability or treadmilling, two mechanisms of assembly dynamics that apply to microtubules and actin. In our present liposome reconstitution, FtsZ is tethered directly to the membrane by an amphipathic helix (FtsZ-mts). We will attempt to reconstitute the natural two-part system where FtsZ is tethered to the membrane by FtsA. We will also investigate the MinCDE system, which oscillates from one end to the other in bacterial cells to localize the FtsZ ring to the center. We will reconstitute the MinCDE system in liposomes, at first by itself (where it should show oscillation) and then with FtsZ-mts and with FtsZ-FtsA (where it should restrict the localization of Z rings). A novel question related to force generation is, what is the structure of the C-terminal tail of FtsZ? This is thought to be a ~50 aa flexible tether between FtsZ and the membrane, and thus transmitting the force from the FtsZ filaments to the membrane. We propose several studies of the structure and mechanics of this tether, including mutation and substitution, NMR, and moving it to different attachment points on the globular domain of FtsZ. In a previous study we obtained a dozen suppressor strains of E. coli that permitted aberrant FtsZ to function for division. These suppressor mutations are likely in undiscovered pathways affecting cytokinesis. We propose to identify them by resequencing the genome of each strain by Solexa sequencing. Finally, we propose to image the Z ring by PALM, a light microscope "superresolution" technique that can give 30 nm resolution. We believe this can image single FtsZ protofilaments and determine how they are distributed to make the Z ring.

Public Health Relevance

Our overall goal is to determine the mechanism by which bacteria divide. This is foremost an issue of basic science, to expand our knowledge of biology. It also has potential clinical relevance. FtsZ is highly conserved in bacteria, and is an attractive target for new antibiotics. Several lead compounds targeting FtsZ are already being studied and developed.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
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Macromolecular Structure and Function C Study Section (MSFC)
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Deatherage, James F
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Duke University
Anatomy/Cell Biology
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Milam, Sara L; Erickson, Harold P (2013) Rapid in vitro assembly of Caulobacter crescentus FtsZ protein at pH 6.5 and 7.2. J Biol Chem 288:23675-9
Gardner, Kiani A J Arkus; Moore, Desmond A; Erickson, Harold P (2013) The C-terminal linker of Escherichia coli FtsZ functions as an intrinsically disordered peptide. Mol Microbiol 89:264-75
Osawa, Masaki; Erickson, Harold P (2013) Liposome division by a simple bacterial division machinery. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110:11000-4
Chen, Yaodong; Milam, Sara L; Erickson, Harold P (2012) SulA inhibits assembly of FtsZ by a simple sequestration mechanism. Biochemistry 51:3100-9
Osawa, Masaki; Erickson, Harold P (2011) Inside-out Z rings--constriction with and without GTP hydrolysis. Mol Microbiol 81:571-9
Chen, Yaodong; Erickson, Harold P (2011) Conformational changes of FtsZ reported by tryptophan mutants. Biochemistry 50:4675-84
Erickson, Harold P; Osawa, Masaki (2010) Cell division without FtsZ--a variety of redundant mechanisms. Mol Microbiol 78:267-70
Erickson, Harold P; Anderson, David E; Osawa, Masaki (2010) FtsZ in bacterial cytokinesis: cytoskeleton and force generator all in one. Microbiol Mol Biol Rev 74:504-28
Osawa, Masaki; Erickson, Harold P (2009) Chapter 1 - Tubular liposomes with variable permeability for reconstitution of FtsZ rings. Methods Enzymol 464:3-17
Osawa, Masaki; Anderson, David E; Erickson, Harold P (2009) Curved FtsZ protofilaments generate bending forces on liposome membranes. EMBO J 28:3476-84

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