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A tiny pinch from a 'z-ring' helps bacteria cells divide
Date:10/11/2007

In process that is shrouded in mystery, rod-shaped bacteria reproduce by splitting themselves in two. By applying advanced mathematics to laboratory data, a team led by Johns Hopkins researchers has solved a small but important part of this reproductive puzzle.

The findings apply to highly common rod-shaped bacteria such as E. coli, found in the human digestive tract. When these single-celled microbes set out to multiply, a signal from an unknown source causes a little-understood structure called a Z-ring to tighten like a rubber band around each bacteriums midsection. The Z-ring pinches the rod-like body into two microbial sausages that finally split apart. To shed light on this process, the Johns Hopkins-led team developed a mathematical tool that computed the mechanical force exerted by the Z-ring when it helps these cells split.

The calculation will aid scientists who are trying to learn more about how these microbes live and reproduce. The work also may hasten the development of a new type of antibiotic that could disable the Z-ring to keep harmful bacteria in check.

The bacteria research was reported in the Oct. 9 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The work was led by Sean X. Sun, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering.

This type of bacteria is commonly found in the human body, said Sun, a co-author of the journal article. Understanding how organisms like this work can help us find new ways to treat bacterial illnesses, develop medications or do any type of bioengineering involving bacteria. If you want to target certain cellular activities, you need to know how single-celled creatures like this operate.

Suns team brought a fresh perspective to the study of cell activity. While traditional biologists try to identify and learn the function of tiny of bits of genetic material within cells, Sun studies how such proteins work toge
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Contact: Phil Sneiderman
prs@jhu.edu
443-287-9900
Johns Hopkins University
Source:Eurekalert

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