The complete sequencing of bacterial genomes has offered new opportunities for the identification of essential genes involved in the control and progression of the cell cycle. For this purpose, we have disrupted ten E. coli genes belonging to the so-called 'minimal genome'. One of these genes, yihA, was necessary for normal cell division. The yihA gene possesses characteristic GTPase motifs and its homologues are present in eukaryotes, archaea and most prokaryotes. Depletion of YihA protein led to a severe reduction in growth rate and to extensive filamentation, with a block beyond the stage of nucleoid segregation. Filamentation was correlated with reduced FtsZ levels and could be specifically suppressed by overexpression of ftsQI, ftsA and ftsZ, and to some extent by ftsZ alone. We hypothesize that YihA, like the Era GTPase, may participate in a checkpoint mechanism that ensures a correct coordination of cell cycle events.