Regulation of the Principal Cell Division Protein FtsZ of Escherichia Coli by Antisense RNA and FtsH Protease
The PhD thesis is on the studsy of the influence of the ftsZ antisense RNA and FtsH protease on the synthesis and function of the Escherichia coli cytokinetic protein, FtsZ, which mediates septation during cell division. Thus, it involves three molecules, FtsZ, ftsZ antisense RNA, and FtsH protease. While the E. coli ftsZ antisense RNA is being identified and structurally and functionally characterised for the first time, there has been some earlier studies in the laboratory in which the FtsH protease was found to have influence on the presence of the FtsZ rings at the mid-cell site. The Chapter 1 is the Introduction to the thesis presented in 3 parts –Part 1A, 1B, and 1C, introducing FtsZ and bacterial cell division, bacterial antisense RNAs, and FtsH protease, respectively. The Chapter 2 gives the description of the Materials and Methods used in the study. The Chapter 3 presents the identification, structural and functional characterisation of the ftsZ cis-antisense RNA, and its role in the regulation of FtsZ protein levels. Initially, the expression of cis-encoded antisense RNA from E. coli ftsZ loci was demonstrated during the different growth phases of the bacterium (RT-PCR/qPCR data). Antisense RNA is expressed from three promoters (primer extension and promoter probe data) on the complementary strand of the ftsZ coding region and terminates at the singletrand te complementary toftsAthegenethat 3’islocatedregionupstreamof theofftsZ the gene. Induced overexpression of a portion (423 bp) of the antisense RNA, spanning the ftsZ AUG codon and the ribosome binding site of ftsZ mRNA, from pBS(KS) could downregulate the synthesis of FtsZ protein to approximately 30%, leading to cell division arrest and filamentation of the cells at 42°C. This effect was less dramatic at 30ºC, probably due to less melting of the antisense RNA. Immunostaining performed on the induced culture did not show FtsZ ring formation after overnight induction whereas reduction in the proportion of the cells carrying FtsZ rings could be clearly observed after 2 hrs of induction. Real time PCR analysis performed for relative quantitation of ftsZ mRNA and ftsZas RNA from different growth phases (0.2 to 2.5 OD600 nm) showed growth phase dependent expression of the antisense RNA. While the levels of ftsZas RNA were found to be high at lower OD cultures or early growth phase cultures, the levels were found to be low at the late log phase and stationary phase cultures. Thus, when the cells are actively dividing and therefore need more FtsZ, the levels of the ftsZas RNA are high, while the cells are not actively dividing and therefore the FtsZ levels are low, the levels of the ftsZas RNA are low. At any phase of the growth, the ratio of the ftsZ mRNA to the ftsZas RNA was always found to be 6:1. Thus, the physiological role the ftsZas RNA is to maintain the availability of the ftsZ mRNA at a level that is commensurate with the requirement for the FtsZ protein during the different stages of the cell growth and division. The Chapter 4 is on the study of the possible mechanism behind the influence of FtsH protease on the presence of FtsZ rings at the mid-cell site during septation in cell division. Immunostaining for FtsZ in the mid-log phase E. coli cells showed that 82% of the AR3289 (ftsH wild type) cells possessed FtsZ rings, while only 18% of the AR3291 (ftsH-null maintained viable by a suppressor mutation) cells showed Z-rings. While the AR3289 cells showed a cell doubling time of 20 min, the AR3291 cells had a cell doubling time of 45 min. The mass doubling time of AR3289 and AR3291 were 24 min and 54 min, respectively. These distinct differences were found in spite of the suppressor mutation suppressing all the deleterious effects of the lack of the essential protease, FtsH. Complementation of the ftsH-null cells (AR3291) with the wild type FtsH but not with the ATP-binding or ATPase, or protease-defective mutants of FtsH, restored the FtsZ ring status to about 80% of the cells. The growth rate of AR3291 was also partly restored to comparable to that of the wild type cells upon complementation. Western blotting for FtsZ, and the FtsZ-stabilising proteins, FtsA and ZipA, showed that the ftsH-null cells have low levels of FtsA, as compared to those in the isogenic wild type cells (AR3289). The levels of FtsZ and ZipA were comparable in both the cells. Quantitative PCR performed for different cell division genes within the dcw cluster showed no sign of change in the ftsA transcript levels in the ftsH-null cells, suggesting that the low levels of FtsA in the ftsH-null cells were not due to transcriptional downregulation. Further experiments showed that the half-life of FtsA protein in the AR3289 cells was 45 min, while that in the AR3291 cells was 24 min. This experiment showed that the low levels of FtsA in the ftsH-null cells was due to the low half-life of FtsA in the cells. Growth synchronisation of the AR3289 and AR3291 cells showed that the levels of FtsA prior to cell division stage do not increase in the ftsH-null cells as much as in the isogenic wild type cells. Thus, the ftsH-null cells must be somehow managing the division through the partial stabilisation of FtsZ rings by ZipA. Interestingly, immunostaining for FtsH in AR3289 cells showed the presence of FtsH at the mid-cell site, as co-localised with FtsZ, for a brief period prior to cell constriction. These observations suggest the involvement of FtsH in cell division process. The faster degradation of FtsA in the absence of FtsH protease implies that another protein, which may be a protease that directly degrades FtsA or a chaperone that helps the unfolding of FtsA for degradation, might be the substrate of FtsH protease. The absence of FtsH protease brings up the levels of this unknown protein, which in turn facilitates (if it is a chaperone) degradation of or directly degrades (if it is a protease) FtsA. This model for the link among FtsH, FtsA levels, and the presence of FtsZ has been proposed based on the observations. Thus, the present study reveals for the first time an FtsA-linked role for FtsH protease in the presence of FtsZ ring at the mid-cell site and hence in bacterial septal biogenesis. The thesis is concluded with the list of salient findings, publications, and references.
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