Proteins in bacteria often deploy to particular places within the cell, but the cues for localization are frequently mysterious. We found that the peripheral membrane protein SpoVM (VM) recognizes a geometric cue when localizing to a particular membrane during sporulation in Bacillus subtilis. Sporulation involves an inner cell maturing into a spore and an outer cell nurturing the developing spore. VM is produced in the outer cell, where it embeds in the membrane that surrounds the inner cell but not in the cytoplasmic membrane of the outer cell. We found that VM localized by discriminating between the positive curvature of the membrane surrounding the inner cell and the negative curvature of the cytoplasmic membrane. Membrane curvature could be a general cue for protein localization in bacteria.
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