Control of cell shape in bacteria: helical, actin-like filaments in Bacillus subtilis

Cell. 2001 Mar 23;104(6):913-22. doi: 10.1016/s0092-8674(01)00287-2.


In the absence of an overt cytoskeleton, the external cell wall of bacteria has traditionally been assumed to be the primary determinant of cell shape. In the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis, two related genes, mreB and mbl, were shown to be required for different aspects of cell morphogenesis. Subcellular localization of the MreB and Mbl proteins revealed that each forms a distinct kind of filamentous helical structure lying close to the cell surface. The distribution of the proteins in different species of bacteria, and the similarity of their sequence to eukaryotic actins, suggest that the MreB-like proteins have a cytoskeletal, actin-like role in bacterial cell morphogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / chemistry
  • Actins / genetics*
  • Actins / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Bacillus subtilis / cytology*
  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics*
  • Bacillus subtilis / growth & development
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Morphogenesis
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Actins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • mbl protein, Bacillus subtilis
  • MreB protein, E coli