Research Highlights: Genes for Normal Cell Division Identified in a Minimal Cell

Genes for Normal Cell Division Identified in a Minimal Cell
  • Cell division is the process by which a cell splits into two or more cells.
  • In bacteria, cell division can be called binary fission which is the primary method for reproduction.
  • James F. Pelletier of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his team revealed the genetic requirement for cell division in a genomically minimal bacterial cell.
  • Minimal cell is a cell-like structure containing the minimal and sufficient number of components to be defined as living thing.[1]
  • Minimal cell offers a platform to define genes that are involved in core physiological processes.
  • Minimal cell includes genes that are important for population growth.
  • However, the physiology of its single cells remained unidentified.
  • The researchers investigated the striking morphological variation in a minimal cell.
  • They presented an approach to identify cell propagation and determined genes that are associated in cell morphology.
  • They observed the intrinsic dynamics of the cell that may have caused irregular structural formation.
  • Using reverse genetic approach, normal-shaped minimal cells were generated from the abnormal-shaped minimal cells.
  • The normal-shaped minimal cells contain 19 genes not retained in morphologically irregular minimal cells.
  • From the 19 genes, 7 were identified that are required to restore the normal shape on minimal cell.
  • The 7 genes include two cell division genes (ftsZ and sepF), hydrolase, and four genes that encode proteins associated with membrane.
  • The function of the ftsZ protein is to recruit other cell division proteins to produce a new cell wall between the dividing cells.[2]
  • The sepF protein interacts with ftsZ and is required in the late step of cell division.[3]
  • The substrate for the hydrolase is unknown.
  • The function of the proteins encoded by the 4 genes is unknown.
  • This result highlights the polygenic nature of cell division and morphology in a genomically minimal cell.


Pelletier, J. F., Sun, L., Wise, K. S., Assad-Garcia, N., Karas, B. J., Deerinck, T. J., Ellisman, M. H., Mershin, A., Gershenfeld, N., Chuang, R. Y., Glass, J. I., & Strychalski, E. A. (2021). Genetic requirements for cell division in a genomically minimal cell. Cell, S0092-8674(21)00293-2. Advance online publication.




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