FtsW exhibits distinct processive movements driven by either septal cell wall synthesis or FtsZ treadmilling in E. coli

Xinxing Yang, Ryan McQuillen, Zhixin Lyu, Polly Phillips-Mason, Ana De La Cruz, Joshua W. McCausland, Hai Liang, Kristen E. DeMeester, Catherine L. Grimes, Piet de Boer, Jie Xiao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During bacterial cell division, synthesis of new septal peptidoglycan (sPG) is crucial for successful cytokinesis and cell pole morphogenesis. FtsW, a SEDS (Shape, Elongation, Division and Sporulation) family protein and an indispensable component of the cell division machinery in all walled bacterial species, was recently identified in vitro as a new monofunctional peptidoglycan glycosyltransferases (PGTase). FtsW and its cognate monofunctional transpeptidase (TPase) class b penicillin binding protein (PBP3 or FtsI in E. coli) may constitute the essential, bifunctional sPG synthase specific for new sPG synthesis. Despite its importance, the septal PGTase activity of FtsW has not been documented in vivo. How its activity is spatiotemporally regulated in vivo has also remained unknown. Here we investigated the septal PGTase activity and dynamics of FtsW in E. coli cells using a combination of single-molecule imaging and genetic manipulations. We showed that FtsW exhibited robust activity to incorporate an N-acetylmuramic acid analog at septa in the absence of other known PGTases, confirming FtsW as the essential septum-specific PGTase in vivo. Furthermore, we identified two populations of processively moving FtsW molecules at septa. A fast-moving population is driven by the treadmilling dynamics of FtsZ and independent of sPG synthesis. A slow-moving population is driven by active sPG synthesis and independent of FtsZ treadmilling dynamics. We further identified that FtsN, a potential sPG synthesis activator, plays an important role in promoting the slow-moving, sPG synthesis-dependent population. Our results support a two-track model, in which inactive sPG synthase molecules follow the fast treadmilling “Z-track” to be distributed along the septum; FtsN promotes their release from the “Z-track” to become active in sPG synthesis on the slow “sPG-track”. This model integrates spatial information into the regulation of sPG synthesis activity and could serve as a mechanism for the spatiotemporal coordination of bacterial cell wall constriction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Nov 21 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)

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