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Influence of heterologous MreB proteins on cell morphology of Bacillus subtilis

Lookup NU author(s): Kathrin Schirner, Professor Jeff Errington FRSORCiD


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The prokaryotic cytoskeletal protein MreB is thought to govern cell shape by positioning the cell wall synthetic apparatus at growth sites in the cell. In rod-shaped bacteria it forms helical filaments that run around the periphery of the rod during elongation. Gram-positive bacteria often contain more than one mreB gene. Bacillus subtilis has three mreB-like genes, mreB, mbl and mreBH, the first two of which have been shown to be essential under normal growth conditions. Expression of an mreB homologue from the closely related organism Bacillus licheniformis did not have any effect on cell growth or morphology. In contrast, expression of mreB from the phylogenetically more distant bacterium Clostridium perfringens produced shape defects and ultimately cell death, due to disruption of the endogenous MreB cytoskeleton. However, expression of either mreB(B. licheniformis) (mre(Bl)) or mreB(C. perfringes) (mreB(Cp)) was sufficient to confer a rod shape to B. subtilis deleted for the three mreB isologues, supporting the idea that the three proteins have largely redundant functions in cell morphogenesis. Expression of mreBCD(Bl) could fully compensate for the loss of mreBCD in B. subtilis and led to the formation of rod-shaped cells. In contrast, expression of mreBCD(Cp) was not sufficient to confer a rod shape to B. subtilis Delta mreBCD, indicating that a complex of these three cell shape determinants is not enough for cell morphogenesis of B. subtilis.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Schirner K, Errington J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Microbiology

Year: 2009

Volume: 155

Pages: 3611-3621

ISSN (print): 1350-0872

ISSN (electronic): 1465-2080

Publisher: Society for General Microbiology


DOI: 10.1099/mic.0.030692-0


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