FtsZ, the bacterial tubulin-homolog, plays a central role in cell division and polymerizes into a ring-like structure at midcell to coordinate other cell division proteins. The rod-shaped gamma-proteobacterium Candidatus Thiosymbion oneisti has a medial discontinuous ellipsoidal “Z-ring.” Ca. T. oneisti FtsZ shows temperature-sensitive characteristics when it is expressed in Escherichia coli, where it localizes at midcell. The overexpression of Ca. T. oneisti FtsZ interferes with cell division and results in filamentous cells. In addition, it forms ring- and barrel-like structures independently of E. coli FtsZ, which suggests that the difference in shape and size of the Ca. T. oneisti FtsZ ring is likely the result of its interaction with Z-ring organizing proteins. Similar to some temperature-sensitive alleles of E. coli FtsZ, Ca. T. oneisti FtsZ has a weak GTPase and does not polymerize in vitro. The temperature sensitivity of Ca. Thiosymbion oneisti FtsZ is likely an adaptation to the preferred temperature of less than 30 °C of its host, the nematode Laxus oneistus.
Peptidoglycan (PG) is essential for bacterial survival and maintaining cell shape. The rod-shaped model bacterium Escherichia coli has a set of seven endopeptidases that remodel the PG during cell growth. The gamma proteobacterium Candidatus Thiosymbion oneisti is also rod-shaped and attaches to the cuticle of its nematode host by one pole. It widens and divides by longitudinal fission using the canonical proteins MreB and FtsZ. The PG layer of Ca. T. oneisti has an unusually high peptide cross-linkage of 67% but relatively short glycan chains with an average length of 12 disaccharides. Curiously, it has only two predicted endopeptidases, MepA and PBP4. Cellular localization of symbiont PBP4 by fluorescently labeled antibodies reveals its polar localization and its accumulation at the constriction sites, suggesting that PBP4 is involved in PG biosynthesis during septum formation. Isolated symbiont PBP4 protein shows a different selectivity for β-lactams compared to its homologue from E. coli. Bocillin-FL binding by PBP4 is activated by some β-lactams, suggesting the presence of an allosteric binding site. Overall, our data point to a role of PBP4 in PG cleavage during the longitudinal cell division and to a PG that might have been adapted to the symbiotic lifestyle.