All Publications

  • Coordination of peptidoglycan synthesis and outer membrane constriction during Escherichia coli cell division ELIFE Gray, A. N., Egan, A. J., Van't Veer, I. L., Verheul, J., Colavin, A., Koumoutsi, A., Biboy, J., Altelaar, A. F., Damen, M. J., Huang, K. C., Simorre, J., Breukink, E., den Blaauwen, T., Typas, A., Gross, C. A., Vollmer, W. 2015; 4


    To maintain cellular structure and integrity during division, Gram-negative bacteria must carefully coordinate constriction of a tripartite cell envelope of inner membrane, peptidoglycan (PG), and outer membrane (OM). It has remained enigmatic how this is accomplished. Here, we show that envelope machines facilitating septal PG synthesis (PBP1B-LpoB complex) and OM constriction (Tol system) are physically and functionally coordinated via YbgF, renamed CpoB (Coordinator of PG synthesis and OM constriction, associated with PBP1B). CpoB localizes to the septum concurrent with PBP1B-LpoB and Tol at the onset of constriction, interacts with both complexes, and regulates PBP1B activity in response to Tol energy state. This coordination links PG synthesis with OM invagination and imparts a unique mode of bifunctional PG synthase regulation by selectively modulating PBP1B cross-linking activity. Coordination of the PBP1B and Tol machines by CpoB contributes to effective PBP1B function in vivo and maintenance of cell envelope integrity during division.

    View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.07118

    View details for Web of Science ID 000356145700001

    View details for PubMedID 25951518

  • Systematic Perturbation of Cytoskeletal Function Reveals a Linear Scaling Relationship between Cell Geometry and Fitness CELL REPORTS Monds, R. D., Lee, T. K., Colavin, A., Ursell, T., Quan, S., Cooper, T. F., Huang, K. C. 2014; 9 (4): 1528-1537
  • Systematic perturbation of cytoskeletal function reveals a linear scaling relationship between cell geometry and fitness. Cell reports Monds, R. D., Lee, T. K., Colavin, A., Ursell, T., Quan, S., Cooper, T. F., Huang, K. C. 2014; 9 (4): 1528-1537


    Diversification of cell size is hypothesized to have occurred through a process of evolutionary optimization, but direct demonstrations of causal relationships between cell geometry and fitness are lacking. Here, we identify a mutation from a laboratory-evolved bacterium that dramatically increases cell size through cytoskeletal perturbation and confers a large fitness advantage. We engineer a library of cytoskeletal mutants of different sizes and show that fitness scales linearly with respect to cell size over a wide physiological range. Quantification of the growth rates of single cells during the exit from stationary phase reveals that transitions between "feast-or-famine" growth regimes are a key determinant of cell-size-dependent fitness effects. We also uncover environments that suppress the fitness advantage of larger cells, indicating that cell-size-dependent fitness effects are subject to both biophysical and metabolic constraints. Together, our results highlight laboratory-based evolution as a powerful framework for studying the quantitative relationships between morphology and fitness.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.10.040

    View details for PubMedID 25456141

  • Rod-like bacterial shape is maintained by feedback between cell curvature and cytoskeletal localization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Ursell, T. S., Nguyen, J., Monds, R. D., Colavin, A., Billings, G., Ouzounov, N., Gitai, Z., Shaevitz, J. W., Huang, K. C. 2014; 111 (11): E1025-34


    Cells typically maintain characteristic shapes, but the mechanisms of self-organization for robust morphological maintenance remain unclear in most systems. Precise regulation of rod-like shape in Escherichia coli cells requires the MreB actin-like cytoskeleton, but the mechanism by which MreB maintains rod-like shape is unknown. Here, we use time-lapse and 3D imaging coupled with computational analysis to map the growth, geometry, and cytoskeletal organization of single bacterial cells at subcellular resolution. Our results demonstrate that feedback between cell geometry and MreB localization maintains rod-like cell shape by targeting cell wall growth to regions of negative cell wall curvature. Pulse-chase labeling indicates that growth is heterogeneous and correlates spatially and temporally with MreB localization, whereas MreB inhibition results in more homogeneous growth, including growth in polar regions previously thought to be inert. Biophysical simulations establish that curvature feedback on the localization of cell wall growth is an effective mechanism for cell straightening and suggest that surface deformations caused by cell wall insertion could direct circumferential motion of MreB. Our work shows that MreB orchestrates persistent, heterogeneous growth at the subcellular scale, enabling robust, uniform growth at the cellular scale without requiring global organization.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1317174111

    View details for PubMedID 24550515

  • Effects of polymerization and nucleotide identity on the conformational dynamics of the bacterial actin homolog MreB PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Colavin, A., Hsin, J., Huang, K. C. 2014; 111 (9): 3585-3590


    The assembly of protein filaments drives many cellular processes, from nucleoid segregation, growth, and division in single cells to muscle contraction in animals. In eukaryotes, shape and motility are regulated through cycles of polymerization and depolymerization of actin cytoskeletal networks. In bacteria, the actin homolog MreB forms filaments that coordinate the cell-wall synthesis machinery to regulate rod-shaped growth and contribute to cellular stiffness through unknown mechanisms. Like actin, MreB is an ATPase and requires ATP to polymerize, and polymerization promotes nucleotide hydrolysis. However, it is unclear whether other similarities exist between MreB and actin because the two proteins share low sequence identity and have distinct cellular roles. Here, we use all-atom molecular dynamics simulations to reveal surprising parallels between MreB and actin structural dynamics. We observe that MreB exhibits actin-like polymerization-dependent structural changes, wherein polymerization induces flattening of MreB subunits, which restructures the nucleotide-binding pocket to favor hydrolysis. MreB filaments exhibited nucleotide-dependent intersubunit bending, with hydrolyzed polymers favoring a straighter conformation. We use steered simulations to demonstrate a coupling between intersubunit bending and the degree of flattening of each subunit, suggesting cooperative bending along a filament. Taken together, our results provide molecular-scale insight into the diversity of structural states of MreB and the relationships among polymerization, hydrolysis, and filament properties, which may be applicable to other members of the broad actin family.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1317061111

    View details for Web of Science ID 000332560300084