Long helical filaments are not seen encircling cells in electron cryotomograms of rod-shaped bacteria

Matthew T. Swulius, Songye Chen, H. Jane Ding, Zhuo Li, Ariane Briegel, Martin Pilhofer, Elitza I. Tocheva, Suzanne R. Lybarger, Tanya L. Johnson, Maria Sandkvist, Grant J. Jensen

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How rod-shaped bacteria form and maintain their shape is an important question in bacterial cell biology. Results from fluorescent light microscopy have led many to believe that the actin homolog MreB and a number of other proteins form long helical filaments along the inner membrane of the cell. Here we show using electron cryotomography of six different rod-shaped bacterial species, at macromolecular resolution, that no long (>80. nm) helical filaments exist near or along either surface of the inner membrane. We also use correlated cryo-fluorescent light microscopy (cryo-fLM) and electron cryo-tomography (ECT) to identify cytoplasmic bundles of MreB, showing that MreB filaments are detectable by ECT. In light of these results, the structure and function of MreB must be reconsidered: instead of acting as a large, rigid scaffold that localizes cell-wall synthetic machinery, moving MreB complexes may apply tension to growing peptidoglycan strands to ensure their orderly, linear insertion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)650-655
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 22 2011


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

Cite this

Swulius, M. T., Chen, S., Jane Ding, H., Li, Z., Briegel, A., Pilhofer, M., Tocheva, E. I., Lybarger, S. R., Johnson, T. L., Sandkvist, M., & Jensen, G. J. (2011). Long helical filaments are not seen encircling cells in electron cryotomograms of rod-shaped bacteria. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 407(4), 650-655. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbrc.2011.03.062