Dissecting the Functional Contributions of the Intrinsically Disordered C-terminal Tail of Bacillus subtilis FtsZ

J Mol Biol. 2020 May 1;432(10):3205-3221. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2020.03.008. Epub 2020 Mar 18.


FtsZ is a bacterial GTPase that is central to the spatial and temporal control of cell division. It is a filament-forming enzyme that encompasses a well-folded core domain and a disordered C-terminal tail (CTT). The CTT is essential for ensuring proper assembly of the cytokinetic ring, and its deletion leads to mis-localization of FtsZ, aberrant assembly, and cell death. In this work, we dissect the contributions of modules within the disordered CTT to assembly and enzymatic activity of Bacillus subtilis FtsZ (Bs-FtsZ). The CTT features a hypervariable C-terminal linker (CTL) and a conserved C-terminal peptide (CTP). Our in vitro studies show that the CTL weakens the driving forces for forming single-stranded active polymers and suppresses lateral associations of these polymers, whereas the CTP promotes the formation of alternative assemblies. Accordingly, in full-length Bs-FtsZ, the CTL acts as a spacer that spatially separates the CTP sticker from the core, thus ensuring filament formation through core-driven polymerization and lateral associations through CTP-mediated interactions. We also find that the CTL weakens GTP binding while enhancing the catalytic rate, whereas the CTP has opposite effects. The joint contributions of the CTL and CTP make Bs-FtsZ, an enzyme that is only half as efficient as a truncated version that lacks the CTT. Overall, our data suggest that the CTT acts as an auto-regulator of Bs-FtsZ assembly and as an auto-inhibitor of enzymatic activity. Based on our results, we propose hypotheses regarding the hypervariability of CTLs and compare FtsZs to other bacterial proteins with tethered IDRs.

Keywords: auto-inhibitor; auto-regulator; filament-forming enzyme; polymerization; self-assembly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus subtilis / chemistry
  • Bacillus subtilis / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Binding Sites
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / chemistry*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Guanosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Domains
  • Protein Unfolding


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • FtsZ protein, Bacteria
  • Guanosine Triphosphate