Bacterial actin and tubulin homologs in cell growth and division

Curr Biol. 2015 Mar 16;25(6):R243-R254. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.01.030.


In contrast to the elaborate cytoskeletal machines harbored by eukaryotic cells, such as mitotic spindles, cytoskeletal structures detectable by typical negative stain electron microscopy are generally absent from bacterial cells. As a result, for decades it was thought that bacteria lacked cytoskeletal machines. Revolutions in genomics and fluorescence microscopy have confirmed the existence not only of smaller-scale cytoskeletal structures in bacteria, but also of widespread functional homologs of eukaryotic cytoskeletal proteins. The presence of actin, tubulin, and intermediate filament homologs in these relatively simple cells suggests that primitive cytoskeletons first arose in bacteria. In bacteria such as Escherichia coli, homologs of tubulin and actin directly interact with each other and are crucial for coordinating cell growth and division. The function and direct interactions between these proteins will be the focus of this review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / chemistry
  • Actins / physiology*
  • Bacteria / cytology
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology*
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / physiology
  • Escherichia coli / cytology
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Escherichia coli / physiology
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / physiology
  • Guanosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Molecular
  • Tubulin / chemistry
  • Tubulin / physiology*


  • Actins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • FtsA protein, Bacteria
  • FtsZ protein, Bacteria
  • Tubulin
  • MreB protein, E coli
  • Guanosine Triphosphate