Bacterial cell division predominantly occurs by a highly conserved process, termed binary fission, that requires the bacterial homologue of tubulin, FtsZ. Other mechanisms of bacterial cell division that are independent of FtsZ are rare. Although the obligate intracellular human pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis, the leading bacterial cause of sexually transmitted infections and trachoma, lacks FtsZ, it has been assumed to divide by binary fission. We show here that Chlamydia divides by a polarized cell division process similar to the budding process of a subset of the Planctomycetes that also lack FtsZ. Prior to cell division, the major outer-membrane protein of Chlamydia is restricted to one pole of the cell, and the nascent daughter cell emerges from this pole by an asymmetric expansion of the membrane. Components of the chlamydial cell division machinery accumulate at the site of polar growth prior to the initiation of asymmetric membrane expansion and inhibitors that disrupt the polarity of C. trachomatis prevent cell division. The polarized cell division of C. trachomatis is the result of the unipolar growth and FtsZ-independent fission of this coccoid organism. This mechanism of cell division has not been documented in other human bacterial pathogens suggesting the potential for developing Chlamydia-specific therapeutic treatments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology