Z-ring force and cell shape during division in rod-like bacteria

Ganhui Lan, Charles W. Wolgemuth, Sean X. Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


The life cycle of bacterial cells consists of repeated elongation, septum formation, and division. Before septum formation, a division ring called the Z-ring, which is made of a filamentous tubulin analog, FtsZ, is seen at the mid cell. Together with several other proteins, FtsZ is essential for cell division. Visualization of strains with GFP-labeled FtsZ shows that the Z-ring contracts before septum formation and pinches the cell into two equal halves. Thus, the Z-ring has been postulated to act as a force generator, although the magnitude of the contraction force is unknown. In this article, we develop a mathematical model to describe the process of growth and Z-ring contraction in rod-like bacteria. The elasticity and growth of the cell wall is incorporated in the model to predict the contraction speed, the cell shape, and the contraction force. With reasonable parameters, the model shows that a small force from the Z-ring (8 pN in Escherichia coli) is sufficient to accomplish division.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16110-16115
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 9 2007


  • Bacterial cell division
  • FtsZ-ring
  • Mathematical model
  • Peptidoglycan synthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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