Self-association of MreC as a regulatory signal in bacterial cell wall elongation

Nat Commun. 2021 May 20;12(1):2987. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-22957-9.


The elongasome, or Rod system, is a protein complex that controls cell wall formation in rod-shaped bacteria. MreC is a membrane-associated elongasome component that co-localizes with the cytoskeletal element MreB and regulates the activity of cell wall biosynthesis enzymes, in a process that may be dependent on MreC self-association. Here, we use electron cryo-microscopy and X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of a self-associated form of MreC from Pseudomonas aeruginosa in atomic detail. MreC monomers interact in head-to-tail fashion. Longitudinal and lateral interfaces are essential for oligomerization in vitro, and a phylogenetic analysis of proteobacterial MreC sequences indicates the prevalence of the identified interfaces. Our results are consistent with a model where MreC's ability to alternate between self-association and interaction with the cell wall biosynthesis machinery plays a key role in the regulation of elongasome activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / ultrastructure
  • Cell Wall / metabolism*
  • Cell Wall / ultrastructure
  • Conserved Sequence / genetics
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Mutagenesis
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Conformation, alpha-Helical / genetics
  • Protein Conformation, beta-Strand / genetics
  • Protein Domains / genetics
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / cytology
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / genetics
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / metabolism*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / ultrastructure
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / ultrastructure


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • MreC protein, Bacteria
  • Recombinant Proteins