Cell Biology

Bending Bugs

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Science  02 Jan 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5654, pp. 16
DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5654.16b

The familiar laboratory organism Escherichia coli displays a rodlike shape, but other bacteria adopt other morphologies, such as spheres or spirals. Caulobacter crescentus, as the name implies, favors a crescent shape, and Ausmees et al. have characterized a protein, termed “crescentin,” that is structurally similar to eukaryotic intermediate filament proteins. Crescentin preferentially localizes to one side of the growing bacterium where it assembles into a helical structure, which induces curvature of the surface membrane. In the absence of cell division, when the bacteria are maintained in stationary phase, elongated helical forms are produced. Thus, crescentin appears to represent the prokaryotic archetype of the third class of cytoskeletal proteins, joining FtsZ and MreB, which represent thick and thin filaments, respectively. — SMH

Cell 115, 705 (2003).

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