The spatial organization of the Z-ring, the central element of the bacterial division machinery, is not yet fully understood. Using optical tweezers and subpixel image analysis, we have recently shown that the radial width of the Z-ring in unconstricted Escherichia coli is about 100nm. The relatively large width is consistent with the observations of others. Moreover, simulation of the experimental FtsZ distribution using the theoretical three-dimensional (3D) point spread function was strongly in favour of a toroidal rather than a thin cylindrical model of the Z-ring. Here, we show that the low density of FtsZ filaments in the ring coincides within experimental uncertainty with the critical density of a 3D random network of cylindrical sticks. This suggests that the Z-ring may consist of a percolating network of FtsZ filaments. Several factors that are expected to affect the polymerization state and the extent of self-interaction of FtsZ within the Z-ring, as well as the functional implications of its sparse toroidal structure, are discussed in terms of percolation theory.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics