Bacterial cytokinesis is accomplished by the essential 'divisome' machinery. The most widely conserved divisome component, FtsZ, is a tubulin homolog that polymerizes into the 'FtsZ-ring' ('Z-ring'). Previous in vitro studies suggest that Z-ring contraction serves as a major constrictive force generator to limit the progression of cytokinesis. Here, we applied quantitative superresolution imaging to examine whether and how Z-ring contraction limits the rate of septum closure during cytokinesis in Escherichia coli cells. Surprisingly, septum closure rate was robust to substantial changes in all Z-ring properties proposed to be coupled to force generation: FtsZ's GTPase activity, Z-ring density, and the timing of Z-ring assembly and disassembly. Instead, the rate was limited by the activity of an essential cell wall synthesis enzyme and further modulated by a physical divisome-chromosome coupling. These results challenge a Z-ring-centric view of bacterial cytokinesis and identify cell wall synthesis and chromosome segregation as limiting processes of cytokinesis.
Keywords: FtsZ; cell wall synthesis; cytokinesis; force generation; superresolution.