The determining factors of cell shape examined

Oct 04, 2012
The determining factors of cell shape examined
Credit: Thinkstock

A European team is investigating the role of the bacterial cell wall and the cytoskeleton in mediating cell shape. Results are expected to have broader implications for cell biology.

A fundamental question in cell biology is how a cell determines and regulates its shape. The current notion is that the cell is dynamically divided into compartments with the cytoskeleton playing a central organiser role by spatially coordinating key cellular functions.

Discovery that bacteria possess an actin-like (MreB family) cytoskeletal structure that may regulate cell morphogenesis has led to the design of the EU-funded 'Control of cell morphogenesis: and actin-cytoskeleton' (SHAPE) project. The key objective of the study is to elucidate the factors controlling bacterial cell wall morphogenesis and to determine the different functions of the bacterial cytoskeleton and the mechanisms underlying them.

The actin-like MreB is believed to form a filamentous network within , coordinating the movement of chromosomes or other macromolecules, thus playing a role analogous to the eukaryotic cytoskeleton in trafficking. However, the mechanistic details and the effectors used by MreB proteins to fulfill these roles remain to be elucidated.

Using the Gram-positive bacterium as a model, the SHAPE team is proposing to unmask MreB-, targets and effectors and determine the spatio-temporal organisation of the MreB cytoskeleton.

Results so far indicate that MreB do not form extended filaments in vivo but instead generate patches that move perpendicularly to the long axis of the cell. This also suggests that the movement of MreB is powered by the cell wall-synthesising complex.

The SHAPE project is looking into the determinants of , concentrating on the role of the MreB cytoskeleton. Apart from providing valuable insight into the underlying mechanisms that regulate MreB dynamics and function, study results could potentially be utilised as novel antimicrobial targets.

Explore further: Reading a biological clock in the dark

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bacterial roundabouts determine cell shape

Jun 03, 2011

Almost all bacteria owe their structure to an outer cell wall that interacts closely with the supporting MreB protein inside the cell. As scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry and at the ...

Team finds new building block in cells

Aug 02, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Zemer Gitai, an assistant professor of molecular biology at Princeton University, members of his laboratory, and scientists from the California Institute of Technology have published results in Nature Ce ...

How muscle develops: A dance of cellular skeletons

Jun 04, 2011

Revealing another part of the story of muscle development, Johns Hopkins researchers have shown how the cytoskeleton from one muscle cell builds finger-like projections that invade into another muscle cell's territory, eventually ...

Recommended for you

Reading a biological clock in the dark

16 hours ago

Our species' waking and sleeping cycles – shaped in millions of years of evolution – have been turned upside down within a single century with the advent of electric lighting and airplanes. As a result, ...

Scientists see how plants optimize their repair

Oct 20, 2014

Researchers led by a Washington State University biologist have found the optimal mechanism by which plants heal the botanical equivalent of a bad sunburn. Their work, published in the Proceedings of the Na ...

User comments : 0