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Researchers find pathway that controls cell size and division

07 issue of Cell, Weart et al. identified a metabolic sensor that links cell division and cell size in B. subtilis with nutritional availability. This sensor is comprised of a three enzyme pathway that was previously shown to be involved in synthesizing a modified component of the cell membrane. The Levin labs data indicates the pathway also has a major role in cell division. So far this has been the only pathway thats been identified in bacteria that directly regulates cell size, says Levin.

Typically, cells in nutrient-rich environments grow bigger than cells in nutrient-poor environments. The Levin lab determined that mutations in genes encoding the three enzymes resulted in cells that were small even when they were in a nutrient-rich environment. Basically, the cells had no way to tell the division apparatus to wait until theyve reached the size they should be. The cells would divide when they were still very short, said Levin. It was almost as if they were growing in really great media but they didnt know it.

Knowing when to divide

Further work indicated that the mutation perturbed FtsZ ring formation. In the cell, FtsZ exists in a balance between its unassembled and assembled state. The enzyme trio regulated FtsZ ring formation by changing this balancepushing FtsZ towards its unassembled state when the cells were growing in nutrient-rich conditions, thereby delaying cell division and increasing cell size.

All three enzymes in the pathway are sensitive to glucose levels, and the pathway is therefore well suited to communicating nutritional information directly to the cells division apparatus. In nutrient-poor conditions the enzymes no longer inhibit FtsZ assembly, allowing the FtsZ ring to form when the cells are still small, resulting in the formation of smaller daughter cells. The third enzyme in the pathway, UgtP, physically interacts with FtsZ to prevent ring formation. UgtP responds to low levels of glucose
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Contact: Tony Fitzpatrick
tony_fitzpatrick@wustl.edu
314-935-5272
Washington University in St. Louis
30-Jul-2007


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