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Investigating the structure and function of the divisome, the multi-protein complex that facilitates cell division in bacteria.

  • Full or part time
    Dr J Lowe
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, December 03, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

When bacteria and archaea divide, most form a ring structure that facilitates the separation of mother and daughter cells. The best-known component of the cytokinetic ring is FtsZ, the bacterial tubulin homologue. FtsZ polymers guide the assembly of a large number of downstream proteins that collectively form the divisome. The divisome complex synchronises a number of molecular events, for example, constriction of the inner membrane needs to be coordinated with changes in the cell wall and outer membrane. Our aim is a mechanistic understanding of the divisome, how its various components work together and how it is assembled.

In the past, we have worked on many aspects of this problem but we would now like to utilise the power of new methods in electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM). For this it is planned to assemble large sub-complexes of the divisome by protein co-expression methods in bacteria and eukaryotic systems and subsequent isolation in order to obtain samples for cryo-EM investigation and in vitro functional studies and reconstitutions.

It is envisaged that it will then then become possible to combine these data with volumes extracted from cellular electron tomograms, showing the divisome in their normal cellular environment, bridging the gap between structural and cell biology.

Prokaryotic cell biology is an exciting field because it is possible to provide complete atomic descriptions of phenomena that in eukaryotes have eluded this goal because of their complexity, such as cell division, cell shape changes, motility, chemotaxis, chromosome segregation and many more.

The project will include many molecular biology techniques as well as protein purification, electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) and the opportunity to learn electron cryotomography (cryo-ET) of bacterial cells.

Funding Notes

Please see the LMB PhD website for further details: View Website


Wagstaff J, Löwe J. Prokaryotic cytoskeletons: protein filaments organizing small cells. Nat Rev Microbiol. 16, 187-201 (2018)
Szewczak-Harris A, Wagstaff J, Löwe J. Cryo-EM structure of the MinCD copolymeric filament from Pseudomonas aeruginosa at 3.1 Å resolution. FEBS Lett. doi: 10.1002/1873-3468.13471 (2019)
Szwedziak P., Wang Q., Bharat T.A.M., Tsim M., Löwe J., "Architecture of the ring formed by the tubulin homologue FtsZ in bacterial cell division", eLife 4, 10.7554/eLife.04601 (2014)
Duggin I. G., Aylett C. H. S., Walsh J. C., Michie K. A., Wang Q., Turnbull L., Dawson E. M., Harry E. J., Whitchurch C. B., Amos L. A., Löwe J., "CetZ tubulin-like proteins control archaeal cell shape", Nature 519, 362 (2014)
Bharat T.A.M., Murshudov G.N., Sachse C., Löwe J., "Structures of actin-like ParM filaments reveal the architecture of plasmid-segregating bipolar spindles", Nature 523, 106 (2015)
Bharat T.A.M., Kureisaite-Ciziene D., Hardy G., Yu E., Devant J., Hagen W.J.H., Brun Y., Briggs J.A.G., Löwe J., "Structure of the hexagonal surface layer on C. crescentus cells", Nature Microbiology 2:17059 (2017)

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