Identification and characterization of a gene cluster required for proper rod shape, cell division, and pathogenesis in Clostridium difficile

Eric M. Ransom, Kyle B. Williams, David S. Weiss, Craig D. Ellermeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Little is known about cell division in Clostridium difficile, a strict anaerobe that causes serious diarrheal diseases in people whose normal intestinal microbiome has been perturbed by treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics. Here we identify and characterize a gene cluster encoding three cell division proteins found only in C. difficile and a small number of closely related bacteria. These proteins were named MldA, MldB, and MldC, for midcell localizing division proteins. MldA is predicted to be a membrane protein with coiled-coil domains and a peptidoglycan-binding SPOR domain. MldB and MldC are predicted to be cytoplasmic proteins; MldB has two predicted coiled-coil domains, but MldC lacks obvious conserved domains or sequence motifs. Mutants of mldA or mldB had morphological defects, including loss of rod shape (a curved cell phenotype) and inefficient separation of daughter cells (a chaining phenotype). Fusions of cyan fluorescent protein (CFP) to MldA, MldB, and MldC revealed that all three proteins localize sharply to the division site. This application of CFP was possible because we discovered that O2-dependent fluorescent proteins produced anaerobically can acquire fluorescence after cells are fixed with cross-linkers to preserve native patterns of protein localization. Mutants lacking the Mld proteins are severely attenuated for pathogenesis in a hamster model of C. difficile infection. Because all three Mld proteins are essentially unique to C. difficile, they might be exploited as targets for antibiotics that combat C. difficile without disrupting the intestinal microbiome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2290-2300
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Volume196
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

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