Bacterial Cell Division - Structure and Function of Proteins Involved

Imrich Barák* , Patrik Florek, Katarína Muchová, Ludmila Pribišová, and Zuzana Chromiková


*Corresponding author. Institute of Molecular Biology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Dúbravská cesta 21, 845 51 Bratislava 45, Slovakia; phone: ++421 2 5930 7418, fax: ++421 2 5930 7416, e-mail:


The basic process of cell division is conceptually similar in eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. This process is characterized by creating the division septum between the duplicated chromosomes. There are several advantages of studying cell division in prokaryotes. In general, it is still more simple process in bacteria than in eukaryotic cells and there are several outstanding model as Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis. The process of cell division is intensively studied on molecular level for decades but there are still many unanswered basic questions. Probably most is known about the mechanism of cell division of rod shaped bacteria, mainly Gram-negative Escherichia coli and Gram-positive B. subtilis. Cell division, often called septation, consists of invagination of cytoplasmatic membrane and peptidoglycan synthesis. There are known a lot of players in this process but mechanism of where, how and when cells form the division septum with high fidelity is often postulated in fully different models. Probably the most controversial question in cell division of rod shaped bacteria is where to divide, in other words, how the position of the division site is determined.

The earliest event in the cell division cycle is the formation of the FtsZ ring at the future septum site. FtsZ is highly conserved GTPase with high degree of similarity with the tubulins, eukaryotic cytoskeletal proteins. During vegetative growth the FtsZ ring forms at midcell and cell divide this site. At least two distinct mechanisms are involved in accurate placement of the division machinery: the Min system and nucleoid occlusion.

Cell division as a fundamental cellular process still holds many secrets which are waiting to be unraveled. The major challenges now lie in understanding of assembly and disassembly of the protein complexes at the site of division. To understand the molecular mechanisms of these processes would require state of art experimental methods to solve the structure not only particular proteins but rather the protein complexes and their proper interpretation to explain such phenomena as asymmetry of protein localization, protein oscillation, protein spiral formation and other.


Work in authors laboratory is supported by grant 2/1004/22 from the Slovak Academy of Sciences and Wellcome Trust Project and Collaborative Research Initiative Grants 066732/Z/01/Z.