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Wall proficient E-coli capable of sustained growth in the absence of the Z-ring division machine

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Romain Mercier, Dr Yoshikazu Kawai, Professor Jeff ErringtonORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Nature Publishing Group, 2016.

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The peptidoglycan cell wall is a major protective external sheath in bacteria and a key target for antibiotics(1). Peptidoglycan is present in virtually all bacteria, suggesting that it was probably present in the last bacterial common ancestor(2). Cell wall expansion is orchestrated by cytoskeletal proteins related to actin (MreB) and tubulin (FtsZ)(3). FtsZ is a key essential player in a highly organized division machine that directs an invaginating annulus of cell wall peptidoglycan. The recent discovery that cell-wall-less bacteria (L-forms) can grow and divide independently of FtsZ(4,5,) provided a means of generating an ftsZ null mutant of Escherichia coli. Remarkably, we have been able to isolate variants of E. coli that lack FtsZ but are capable of efficient growth in a walled state. Genetic analysis reveals that a combination of mutations is needed for this phenotype. Importantly, the suppressive mutations lead to a major cell shape change, from the normal cylindrical shape to a branched and bulging, ramified shape, which we call 'coli-flower'. The results highlight the versatility of bacterial cells and illustrate possible evolutionary routes leading to the emergence of specialized bacteria, such as pathogenic Chlamydia or aquatic Planctomycetes, that lack FtsZ but retain the cell wall(6-8).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mercier R, Kawai Y, Errington J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature Microbiology

Year: 2016

Volume: 1

Issue: 8

Print publication date: 01/08/2016

Online publication date: 27/06/2016

Acceptance date: 09/05/2016

Date deposited: 17/01/2017

ISSN (electronic): 2058-5276

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.91


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Funder referenceFunder name
250363European Research Council
BH141574European Research Council