Actin-like cytoskeletal systems in bacteria and archaea


  • Dr Jan Löwe

Project summary

Bacteria contain proteins that form internal fibres. These proteins have counterparts in all other organisms but the functions of the fibres in bacteria are different. One type of fibre (FtsZ protein) facilitates multiplication of bacteria by dividing them into two daughter cells. Others organise the distinct shapes that bacteria adopt (MreB protein). Other types of fibres make sure that certain kinds of parasitic small DNAs (plasmids), are distributed to daughter cells during division (Tubz and ParM proteins), or organise small magnets that form inside certain bacteria so that they are able to swim guided by Earth’s magnetic field (MamK protein).

We propose to investigate some of these fibre systems by integrating information at various length scales, ranging from atoms to individual protein molecules and protein fibres, even to entire cells. Methods we will use include X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy and electron tomography. Combining them with methods that reveal information about the system's dynamics, such as light microscopy, and assembly from their components outside cells, we will be able to investigate how the systems do their work.

The study’s insights might make it possible to disrupt these processes using new drugs that kill harmful bacteria.