Background: FtsZ is an essential cell division protein, which localizes at the middle of the bacterial cell to mediate cytokinesis. In vitro, FtsZ polymerizes and induces GTPase activity through longitudinal interactions to form the protofilaments, whilst lateral interactions result within formation of bundles. The interactions that participate in the protofilaments are similar to its eukaryotic homologue tubulin and are well characterized; however, lateral interactions between the inter protofilaments are less defined. FtsZ forms double protofilaments in vitro, though the key elements on the interface of the inter-protofilaments remain unclear as well as the structures involved in the lateral interactions in vivo and in vitro. In this study, we demonstrate that the highly conserved negative charge of glutamate 83 and the positive charge of arginine 85 located in the helix H3 bend of FtsZ are required for in vitro FtsZ lateral and longitudinal interactions, respectively and for in vivo cell division.
Results: The effect of mutation on the widely conserved glutamate-83 and arginine-85 residues located in the helix H3 (present in most of the tubulin family) was evaluated by in vitro and in situ experiments. The morphology of the cells expressing Escherichia coli FtsZ (E83Q) mutant at 42°C formed filamented cells while those expressing FtsZ(R85Q) formed shorter filamented cells. In situ immunofluorescence experiments showed that the FtsZ(E83Q) mutant formed rings within the filamented cells whereas those formed by the FtsZ(R85Q) mutant were less defined. The expression of the mutant proteins diminished cell viability as follows: wild type > E83Q > R85Q. In vitro, both, R85Q and E83Q reduced the rate of FtsZ polymerization (WT > E83Q >> R85Q) and GTPase activity (WT > E83Q >> R85Q). R85Q protein polymerized into shorter filaments compared to WT and E83Q, with a GTPase lag period that was inversely proportional to the protein concentration. In the presence of ZipA, R85Q GTPase activity increased two fold, but no bundles were formed suggesting that lateral interactions were affected.
Conclusions: We found that glutamate 83 and arginine 85 located in the bend of helix H3 at the lateral face are required for the protofilament lateral interaction and also affects the inter-protofilament lateral interactions that ultimately play a role in the functional localization of the FtsZ ring at the cell division site.