Critical role for the extended N terminus of chlamydial MreB in directing its membrane association and potential interaction with divisome proteins

Junghoon Lee, John V. Cox, Scot P. Ouellette

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4 Scopus citations


Chlamydiae lack the conserved central coordinator protein of cell division FtsZ, a tubulin-like homolog. Current evidence indicates that Chlamydia uses the actinlike homolog, MreB, to substitute for the role of FtsZ in a polarized division mechanism. Interestingly, we observed MreB as a ring at the septum in dividing cells of Chlamydia. We hypothesize that MreB, to substitute for FtsZ in Chlamydia, must possess unique properties compared to canonical MreB orthologs. Sequence differences between chlamydial MreB and orthologs in other bacteria revealed that chlamydial MreB possesses an extended N-terminal region, harboring predicted amphipathicity, as well as the conserved amphipathic helix found in other bacterial MreBs. The conserved amphipathic helix-directed green fluorescent protein (GFP) to label the membrane uniformly in Escherichia coli but the extended N-terminal region did not. However, the extended N-terminal region together with the conserved amphipathic region directed GFP to restrict the membrane label to the cell poles. In Chlamydia, the extended N-terminal region was sufficient to direct GFP to the membrane, and this localization was independent of an association with endogenous MreB. Importantly, mutating the extended N-terminal region to reduce its amphipathicity resulted in the accumulation of GFP in the cytosol of the chlamydiae and not in the membrane. The N-terminal domain of MreB was not required for homotypic interactions but was necessary for interactions with cell division components RodZ and FtsK. Our data provide mechanistic support for chlamydial MreB to serve as a substitute for FtsZ by forming a ringlike structure at the site of polarized division. IMPORTANCE Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular pathogen, causing sexually transmitted diseases and trachoma. The study of chlamydial physiology is important for developing novel therapeutic strategies for these diseases. Chlamydiae divide by a unique MreB-dependent polarized cell division process. In this study, we investigated unique properties of chlamydial MreB and observed that chlamydial species harbor an extended N-terminal region possessing amphipathicity. MreB formed a ring at the septum, like FtsZ in Escherichia coli, and its localization was dependent upon the amphipathic nature of its extended N terminus. Furthermore, this region is crucial for the interaction of MreB with cell division proteins. Given these results, chlamydial MreB likely functions at the septum as a scaffold for divisome proteins to regulate cell division in this organism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00034-20
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Amphipathic helix
  • Cell division
  • Chlamydia
  • FtsZ
  • MreB
  • Polarized division

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology

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