FtsN maintains active septal cell wall synthesis by forming a processive complex with the septum-specific peptidoglycan synthases in E. coli

Nat Commun. 2022 Sep 30;13(1):5751. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-33404-8.


FtsN plays an essential role in promoting the inward synthesis of septal peptidoglycan (sPG) by the FtsWI complex during bacterial cell division. How it achieves this role is unclear. Here we use single-molecule tracking to investigate FtsN's dynamics during sPG synthesis in E. coli. We show that septal FtsN molecules move processively at ~9 nm s-1, the same as FtsWI molecules engaged in sPG synthesis (termed sPG-track), but much slower than the ~30 nm s-1 speed of inactive FtsWI molecules coupled to FtsZ's treadmilling dynamics (termed FtsZ-track). Importantly, processive movement of FtsN is exclusively coupled to sPG synthesis and is required to maintain active sPG synthesis by FtsWI. Our findings indicate that FtsN is part of the FtsWI sPG synthesis complex, and that while FtsN is often described as a "trigger" for the initiation for cell wall constriction, it must remain part of the processive FtsWI complex to maintain sPG synthesis activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Wall
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins* / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Peptidoglycan*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • FtsN protein, E coli
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Peptidoglycan