Remodeling of the Z-Ring Nanostructure during the Streptococcus pneumoniae Cell Cycle Revealed by Photoactivated Localization Microscopy

mBio. 2015 Aug 18;6(4):e01108-15. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01108-15.


Ovococci form a morphological group that includes several human pathogens (enterococci and streptococci). Their shape results from two modes of cell wall insertion, one allowing division and one allowing elongation. Both cell wall synthesis modes rely on a single cytoskeletal protein, FtsZ. Despite the central role of FtsZ in ovococci, a detailed view of the in vivo nanostructure of ovococcal Z-rings has been lacking thus far, limiting our understanding of their assembly and architecture. We have developed the use of photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM) in the ovococcus human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae by engineering spDendra2, a photoconvertible fluorescent protein optimized for this bacterium. Labeling of endogenously expressed FtsZ with spDendra2 revealed the remodeling of the Z-ring's morphology during the division cycle at the nanoscale level. We show that changes in the ring's axial thickness and in the clustering propensity of FtsZ correlate with the advancement of the cell cycle. In addition, we observe double-ring substructures suggestive of short-lived intermediates that may form upon initiation of septal cell wall synthesis. These data are integrated into a model describing the architecture and the remodeling of the Z-ring during the cell cycle of ovococci.

Importance: The Gram-positive human pathogen S. pneumoniae is responsible for 1.6 million deaths per year worldwide and is increasingly resistant to various antibiotics. FtsZ is a cytoskeletal protein polymerizing at midcell into a ring-like structure called the Z-ring. FtsZ is a promising new antimicrobial target, as its inhibition leads to cell death. A precise view of the Z-ring architecture in vivo is essential to understand the mode of action of inhibitory drugs (see T. den Blaauwen, J. M. Andreu, and O. Monasterio, Bioorg Chem 55:27-38, 2014, doi:10.1016/j.bioorg.2014.03.007, for a review on FtsZ inhibitors). This is notably true in ovococcoid bacteria like S. pneumoniae, in which FtsZ is the only known cytoskeletal protein. We have used superresolution microscopy to obtain molecular details of the pneumococcus Z-ring that have so far been inaccessible with conventional microscopy. This study provides a nanoscale description of the Z-ring architecture and remodeling during the division of ovococci.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / ultrastructure*
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Division
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / chemistry
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / genetics
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / ultrastructure*
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Nanostructures / ultrastructure*
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / chemistry*
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / genetics
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / physiology*
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / ultrastructure


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • FtsZ protein, Bacteria