Supramolecular structure in the membrane of Staphylococcus aureus

Garcia-Lara, Jorge orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8700-954X, Weihs, Felix, Ma, Xing, Walker, Lucas, Chaudhuri, Roy R., Kasturiarachchi, Jagath, Crossley, Howard, Golestanian, Ramin and Foster, Simon J. (2015) Supramolecular structure in the membrane of Staphylococcus aureus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112 (51). pp. 15725-15730. ISSN 0027-8424

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The fundamental processes of life are organized and based on common basic principles. Molecular organizers, often interacting with the membrane, capitalize on cellular polarity to precisely orientate essential processes. The study of organisms lacking apparent polarity or known cellular organizers (e.g., the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus) may enable the elucidation of the primal organizational drive in biology. How does a cell choose from infinite locations in its membrane? We have discovered a structure in the S. aureus membrane that organizes processes indispensable for life and can arise spontaneously from the geometric constraints of protein complexes on membranes. Building on this finding, the most basic cellular positioning system to optimize biological processes, known molecular coordinators could introduce further levels of complexity.

All life demands the temporal and spatial control of essential biological functions. In bacteria, the recent discovery of coordinating elements provides a framework to begin to explain cell growth and division. Here we present the discovery of a supramolecular structure in the membrane of the coccal bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, which leads to the formation of a large-scale pattern across the entire cell body; this has been unveiled by studying the distribution of essential proteins involved in lipid metabolism (PlsY and CdsA). The organization is found to require MreD, which determines morphology in rod-shaped cells. The distribution of protein complexes can be explained as a spontaneous pattern formation arising from the competition between the energy cost of bending that they impose on the membrane, their entropy of mixing, and the geometric constraints in the system. Our results provide evidence for the existence of a self-organized and nonpercolating molecular scaffold involving MreD as an organizer for optimal cell function and growth based on the intrinsic self-assembling properties of biological molecules.

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