Bacterial cell division protein FtsZ assembles into protofilament sheets and minirings, structural homologs of tubulin polymers.
The bacterial cell division protein FtsZ is a homolog of tubulin, but it has not been determined whether FtsZ polymers are structurally related to the microtubule lattice. In the present study, we have obtained high-resolution electron micrographs of two FtsZ polymers that show remarkable similarity to tubulin polymers. The first is a two-dimensional sheet of protofilaments with a lattice very similar to that of the microtubule wall. The second is a miniring, consisting of a single protofilament in a sharply curved, planar conformation. FtsZ minirings are very similar to tubulin rings that are formed upon disassembly of microtubules but are about half the diameter. This suggests that the curved conformation occurs at every FtsZ subunit, but in tubulin rings the conformation occurs at either beta- or alpha-tubulin subunits but not both. We conclude that the functional polymer of FtsZ in bacterial cell division is a long thin sheet of protofilaments. There is sufficient FtsZ in Escherichia coli to form a protofilament that encircles the cell 20 times. The similarity of polymers formed by FtsZ and tubulin implies that the protofilament sheet is an ancient cytoskeletal system, originally functioning in bacterial cell division and later modified to make microtubules.
Erickson, HP; Taylor, DW; Taylor, KA; Bramhill, D
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