FtsEX-mediated regulation of the final stages of cell division reveals morphogenetic plasticity in Caulobacter crescentus

PLoS Genet. 2017 Sep 8;13(9):e1006999. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006999. eCollection 2017 Sep.


During its life cycle, Caulobacter crescentus undergoes a series of coordinated shape changes, including generation of a polar stalk and reshaping of the cell envelope to produce new daughter cells through the process of cytokinesis. The mechanisms by which these morphogenetic processes are coordinated in time and space remain largely unknown. Here we demonstrate that the conserved division complex FtsEX controls both the early and late stages of cytokinesis in C. crescentus, namely initiation of constriction and final cell separation. ΔftsE cells display a striking phenotype: cells are chained, with skinny connections between cell bodies resulting from defects in inner membrane fusion and cell separation. Surprisingly, the thin connections in ΔftsE cells share morphological and molecular features with C. crescentus stalks. Our data uncover unanticipated morphogenetic plasticity in C. crescentus, with loss of FtsE causing a stalk-like program to take over at failed division sites.

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / chemistry
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Caulobacter crescentus / genetics*
  • Caulobacter crescentus / growth & development
  • Caulobacter crescentus / ultrastructure
  • Cell Division / genetics*
  • Cell Wall / genetics*
  • Cell Wall / ultrastructure
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / chemistry
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / genetics
  • Cytokinesis / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Hydrolysis
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Morphogenesis / genetics*
  • Protein Domains


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • FtsE protein, E coli
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator