Defining the rate-limiting processes of bacterial cytokinesis

Carla Coltharp, Jackson Buss, Trevor M. Plumer, Jie Xiao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Bacterial cytokinesis is accomplished by the essential 'divisome' machinery. The most widely conserved divisome component, FtsZ, is a tubulin homolog that polymerizes into the 'FtsZ-ring' ('Z-ring'). Previous in vitro studies suggest that Z-ring contraction serves as a major constrictive force generator to limit the progression of cytokinesis. Here, we applied quantitative superresolution imaging to examine whether and how Z-ring contraction limits the rate of septum closure during cytokinesis in Escherichia coli cells. Surprisingly, septum closure rate was robust to substantial changes in all Z-ring properties proposed to be coupled to force generation: FtsZ's GTPase activity, Z-ring density, and the timing of Z-ring assembly and disassembly. Instead, the rate was limited by the activity of an essential cell wall synthesis enzyme and further modulated by a physical divisome-chromosome coupling. These results challenge a Z-ring-centric view of bacterial cytokinesis and identify cell wall synthesis and chromosome segregation as limiting processes of cytokinesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1044-E1053
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 23 2016


  • Cell wall synthesis
  • Cytokinesis
  • Force generation
  • FtsZ
  • Superresolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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