Molecular mechanism by which the nucleoid occlusion factor, SlmA, keeps cytokinesis in check

Nam Ky Tonthat, Stefan T. Arold, Brian F. Pickering, Michael W. Van Dyke, Shoudan Liang, Yue Lu, Tushar K. Beuria, William Margolin, Maria A. Schumacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


In Escherichia coli, cytokinesis is orchestrated by FtsZ, which forms a Z-ring to drive septation. Spatial and temporal control of Z-ring formation is achieved by the Min and nucleoid occlusion (NO) systems. Unlike the well-studied Min system, less is known about the anti-DNA guillotining NO process. Here, we describe studies addressing the molecular mechanism of SlmA (synthetic lethal with a defective Min system)-mediated NO. SlmA contains a TetR-like DNA-binding fold, and chromatin immunoprecipitation analyses show that SlmA-binding sites are dispersed on the chromosome except the Ter region, which segregates immediately before septation. SlmA binds DNA and FtsZ simultaneously, and the SlmA-FtsZ structure reveals that two FtsZ molecules sandwich a SlmA dimer. In this complex, FtsZ can still bind GTP and form protofilaments, but the separated protofilaments are forced into an anti-parallel arrangement. This suggests that SlmA may alter FtsZ polymer assembly. Indeed, electron microscopy data, showing that SlmA-DNA disrupts the formation of normal FtsZ polymers and induces distinct spiral structures, supports this. Thus, the combined data reveal how SlmA derails Z-ring formation at the correct place and time to effect NO.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-164
Number of pages11
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 5 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • FtsZ Z-ring formation
  • SlmA
  • bacterial cell division
  • chromosome segregation
  • nucleoid occlusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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