Using Live Cell Imaging to Probe Biogenesis of the Gram-Negative Cell Envelope

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Using Live Cell Imaging to Probe Biogenesis of the Gram-Negative Cell Envelope

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Title: Using Live Cell Imaging to Probe Biogenesis of the Gram-Negative Cell Envelope
Author: Yao, Zhizhong
Citation: Yao, Zhizhong. 2012. Using Live Cell Imaging to Probe Biogenesis of the Gram-Negative Cell Envelope. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: In Gram-negative bacteria, the three-layered cell envelope, including the cell wall, outer and inner membranes, is essential for cell survival in the changing, and often hostile environments. Conserved in all prokaryotes, the cell wall is incredibly thin, yet it functions to prevent osmotic lysis in diluted conditions. Based on observations obtained by genetic and chemical perturbations, time-lapse live cell imaging, quantitative imaging and statistical analysis, Part I of this dissertation explores the molecular and physical events leading to cell lysis induced by division-specific beta-lactams. We found that such lysis requires the complete assembly of all essential components of the cell division apparatus and the subsequent recruitment of hydrolytic amidases. We propose that division-specific beta-lactams lyze cells by inhibiting FtsI (PBP3) without perturbing the normal assembly of the cell division machinery and the consequent activation of cell wall hydrolases. On the other hand, we demonstrated that cell lysis by beta-lactams proceeds through four physical phases: elongation, bulge formation, bulge stagnation and lysis. Bulge formation dynamics is determined by the specific perturbation of the cell wall and outer membrane plays an independent role in stabilizing the bulge once it is formed. The stabilized bulge delays lysis, and allows escape and recovery upon drug removal. Asymmetrical in structure and unique to Gram-negative bacteria, outer membrane prevents the passage of many hydrophobic, toxic compounds. Together with inner membrane and the cell wall, three layers of the Gram-negative cell envelope must be well coordinated throughout the cell cycle to allow elongation and division. Part II of this dissertation explores the essentiality of the LPS layer, the outer leaflet of the outer membrane. Using a conditional mutant severely defective in LPS transport, we found that mutations in the initiation phase of fatty acid synthesis suppress cells defective in LPS transport. The suppressor cells are remarkably small with a 70% reduction in cell volume and a 50 % reduction in growth rate. They are also blind to nutrient excess with respect to cell size control. We propose a model where fatty acid synthesis regulates cell size in response to nutrient availability, thereby influencing growth rate.
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