Genetic control of the cell cycle



Miguel Vicente

Group Leader


Info about Divinocell Project


 Research summary

This group works to find inhibitable targets in essential bacterial functions, namely cell growth and division, with the purpose of designing assays to identify new antimicrobials. For this goal we study first the proliferation of a Gram-negative bacteria, Escherichia coli, in which both commensal and pathogenic strains exists.



Pazos M, Peters K, Casanova M, Palacios P, VanNieuwenhze M, Breukink E, Vicente M, Vollmer W. Z-ring membrane anchors associate with cell wall synthases to initiate bacterial cell division. Nat Commun 2018; 9: 5090

Matsumoto S, Kawai Y, Miyagawa S, Iwamoto Y, Okuda S, Sánchez-Gorostiaga A, Vicente M, Tsuneda S. Unique transcriptional profile of native native persisters in Escherichia coli. J Biosci Bioeng 2018; 125: 15-22.

Ortiz C, Casanova M, Palacios P, Vicente M.The hypermorph FtsA* protein has an in vivo role in relieving the Escherichia coli proto-ring block caused by excess ZapC+ PLoS One 2017; 12: e0184184

Mura A, Fadda D, Perez AJ, Danforth ML, Musu D, Rico AI, Krupka M, Denapaite D, Tsui HT, Winkler ME, Branny P, Vicente M, Margolin W, Massidda O. Roles of the essential protein FtsA in cell growth and division in Streptococcus pneumoniae. J Bacteriol 2017; 199: e00608-16



The success of bacteria results from their ability to survive and multiply even under adverse conditions. To proliferate, Escherichia coli, an important inhabitant of the human gut, assembles a very efficient complex, called divisome. The divisome is exactly placed at the centre of the cell, avoiding the region occupied by the chromosome until it is fully replicated and segregated. A main component of the divisome is FtsZ, an analogue of the human tubulin, that polymerises forming a contractile ring to initiate cell division. FtsZ needs two proteins, ZipA and FtsA, to be anchored to the membrane. In addition, FtsZ is prevented by other proteins called Min from polymerising at the poles, whereas another protein SlmA, excludes the polymers from the region around the chromosome. On the other hand, a group of Zap proteins, as ZapC, serve to stabilise the FtsZ polymers. All these proteins that interact with FtsZ have collectively received the name of “The Keepers of the Ring”.

Differently from their role in the division of E. coli , in Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacterium having a coccal rather than bacillar shape, FtsA and FtsZ coordinate both peripheral and septal PG synthesis and are codependent for their localisation at midcell.

Although E. coli cells can grow in the absence of FtsZ, they cannot divide and form filaments. In addition, the very low levels of FtsZ present in synthetically FtsZ-deprived cells have unexpected and severe pleiotropic effects on the global physiology of E. coli, culminating in a reduced resilience that compromises bacterial survival. Studying the properties of FtsZ and its keepers, offers then the bright possibility to discover compounds to neutralise the ring. These would be the much needed new antibiotics essential to fight against the Dark Powers of the Ring, the antibiotic resistant pathogens.





Miguel Vicente Principal investigator
Laura Cueto Predoctoral scientist
Pilar Palacios Technicians
Mercedes Casanova Technicians

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