Processive Movement of MreB-Associated Cell Wall Biosynthetic Complexes in Bacteria

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Science  02 Jun 2011:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1203466


The peptidoglycan cell wall and the actin-like MreB cytoskeleton are major determinants of cell shape in rod-shaped bacteria. The prevailing model postulates that helical, membrane-associated MreB filaments organize elongation-specific peptidoglycan-synthesizing complexes along sidewalls. We used total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to visualize the dynamic relationship between MreB isoforms and cell wall synthesis in live Bacillus subtilis cells. During exponential growth, MreB proteins did not form helical structures. Instead, together with other morphogenetic factors, they assembled into discrete patches that moved processively along peripheral tracks perpendicular to the cell axis. Patch motility was largely powered by cell wall synthesis, while MreB polymers restricted diffusion of patch components in the membrane and oriented patch motion.