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Crucial Role for Membrane Fluidity in Proliferation of Primitive Cells

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Romain Mercier, Dr Patricia Dominguez Cuevas, Professor Jeff ErringtonORCiD


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The cell wall is a defining structural feature of the bacterial subkingdom. However, most bacteria are capable of mutating into a cell-wall-deficient "L-form'' state, requiring remarkable physiological and structural adaptations. L-forms proliferate by an unusual membrane deformation and scission process that is independent of the conserved and normally essential FtsZ based division machinery, and which may provide a model for the replication of primitive cells. Candidate gene screening revealed no requirement for the cytoskeletal systems that might actively drive membrane deformation or scission. Instead, we uncovered a crucial role for branched-chain fatty acid (BCFA) synthesis. BCFA-deficient mutants grow and undergo pulsating shape changes, but membrane scission fails, abolishing the separation of progeny cells. The failure in scission is associated with a reduction in membrane fluidity. The results identify a step in L-form proliferation and demonstrate that purely biophysical processes may have been sufficient for proliferation of primitive cells.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mercier R, Dominguez-Cuevas P, Errington J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cell Reports

Year: 2012

Volume: 1

Issue: 5

Pages: 417-423

Print publication date: 01/05/2012

ISSN (print): 2211-1247

ISSN (electronic):

Publisher: Cell Press


DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2012.03.008


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Funder referenceFunder name
Marie-Curie Intra-European Fellowships
EMBO Long Term Fellowships
250363European Research Council