Biochimica et biophysica acta. Molecular cell research | 14 Feb 2021
MÁ Robles-Ramos, S Zorrilla, C Alfonso, W Margolin, G Rivas and B Monterroso
Biomolecular condensation through phase separation may be a novel mechanism to regulate bacterial processes, including cell division. Previous work revealed that FtsZ, a protein essential for cytokinesis in most bacteria, forms biomolecular condensates with SlmA, a protein that protects the chromosome from damage inflicted by the division machinery in Escherichia coli. The absence of condensates composed solely of FtsZ under the conditions used in that study suggested this mechanism was restricted to nucleoid occlusion by SlmA or to bacteria containing this protein. Here we report that FtsZ alone, under physiologically relevant conditions, can demix into condensates in bulk and when encapsulated in synthetic cell-like systems generated by microfluidics. Condensate assembly depends on FtsZ being in the GDP-bound state and on conditions mimicking the crowded environment of the cytoplasm that promote its oligomerization. Condensates are dynamic and reversibly convert into filaments upon GTP addition. Notably, FtsZ lacking its C-terminal disordered region, a structural element likely to favor biomolecular condensation, also forms condensates, albeit less efficiently. The inherent tendency of FtsZ to form condensates susceptible to modulation by physiological factors, including binding partners, suggests that such mechanisms may play a more general role in bacterial division than initially envisioned.
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