The Division Defect of a Bacillus subtilis minD noc Double Mutant Can Be Suppressed by Spx-Dependent and Spx-Independent Mechanisms

J Bacteriol. 2021 Aug 20;203(18):e0024921. doi: 10.1128/JB.00249-21. Epub 2021 Aug 20.


During growth, bacteria increase in size and divide. Division is initiated by the formation of the Z-ring, a ring-like cytoskeletal structure formed by treadmilling protofilaments of the tubulin homolog FtsZ. FtsZ localization is thought to be controlled by the Min and Noc systems, and here we explore why cell division fails at high temperature when the Min and Noc systems are simultaneously mutated. Microfluidic analysis of a minD noc double mutant indicated that FtsZ formed proto-Z-rings at periodic interchromosome locations but that the rings failed to mature and become functional. Extragenic suppressor analysis indicated that a variety of mutations restored high temperature growth to the minD noc double mutant, and while many were likely pleiotropic, others implicated the proteolysis of the transcription factor Spx. Further analysis indicated that a Spx-dependent pathway activated the expression of ZapA, a protein that primarily compensates for the absence of Noc. In addition, an Spx-independent pathway reduced the length of the cytokinetic period, perhaps by increasing divisome activity. Finally, we provide evidence of an as-yet-unidentified protein that is activated by Spx and governs the frequency of polar division and minicell formation. IMPORTANCE Bacteria must properly position the location of the cell division machinery in order to grow, divide, and ensure each daughter cell receives one copy of the chromosome. In Bacillus subtilis, cell division site selection depends on the Min and Noc systems, and while neither is individually essential, cells fail to grow at high temperature when both are mutated. Here, we show that cell division fails in the absence of Min and Noc, due not to a defect in FtsZ localization but rather to a failure in the maturation of the cell division machinery. Suppressor mutations that restored growth were selected, and while some activated the expression of ZapA via the Spx stress response pathway, others appeared to directly enhance divisome activity.

Keywords: ClpX; FtsZ; MinD; Noc; Spx; YjbH; ZapA; cell division; ftsZ; growth; microfluidics; minD; nucleoid occlusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Cell Division / genetics*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Mutation*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins