General protein diffusion barriers create compartments within bacterial cells

Susan Schlimpert, Eric A. Klein, Ariane Briegel, Velocity Hughes, Jörg Kahnt, Kathrin Bolte, Uwe G. Maier, Yves V. Brun, Grant J. Jensen, Zemer Gitai, Martin Thanbichler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


In eukaryotes, the differentiation of cellular extensions such as cilia or neuronal axons depends on the partitioning of proteins to distinct plasma membrane domains by specialized diffusion barriers. However, examples of this compartmentalization strategy are still missing for prokaryotes, although complex cellular architectures are also widespread among this group of organisms. This study reveals the existence of a protein-mediated membrane diffusion barrier in the stalked bacterium Caulobacter crescentus. We show that the Caulobacter cell envelope is compartmentalized by macromolecular complexes that prevent the exchange of both membrane and soluble proteins between the polar stalk extension and the cell body. The barrier structures span the cross-sectional area of the stalk and comprise at least four proteins that assemble in a cell-cycle-dependent manner. Their presence is critical for cellular fitness because they minimize the effective cell volume, allowing faster adaptation to environmental changes that require de novo synthesis of envelope proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1270-1282
Number of pages13
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 7 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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