Petra Anne Levin, Ph.D.


Plant and Microbial Biosciences Program
Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis Program
Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology Program
Molecular Cell Biology Program

  • 314-935-7888

  • 314-935-5250

  • 314-935-4432

  • 1137

  • 301 Rebstock Hall



  • cell cycle, cytoskeleton, cell size, bacteriology

  • Temporal and spatial regulation of cell division in E. coli, B. subtilis and the pathogen S. aureus

Research Abstract:

Our research seeks to elucidate the molecular basis for the temporal and spatial control of cell division. From bacteria to yeast to humans, cell division is initiated by the formation of a ring of a cytoskeletal protein at the nascent division site. This ring establishes the location of the division septum and serves as a framework for assembly of the division apparatus. In bacteria this ring is composed of the essential tubulin-like GTPase FtsZ. In response to an unidentified cell cycle signal, FtsZ polymerizes into a ring structure that serves as a framework on which the division machinery is assembled. As division proceeds, the FtsZ ring constricts, like a drawstring, at the leading edge of the invaginating septum. We focus our research on the regulatory networks that govern FtsZ ring formation in three model organisms, the soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis, E. coli, and the pathogen Staphylococcus aureus. To date, the signals that couple FtsZ ring formation and constriction to the cell cycle and the intracellular guideposts directing FtsZ to the division site remain elusive. Using genetic and biochemical strategies, we are isolating the factors responsible for the localization and activity of FtsZ. Characterization of these determinants will enable us to position them within the regulatory networks controlling bacterial cell division. As essential components of the bacterial cell division machinery, FtsZ and the factors governing its activity hold promise as potential targets for the development of new antibiotics. Furthermore, our work should illuminate not only bacterial cell division, but also aspects of cytokinesis fundamental to all organisms. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that normally control cell division will help identify why they fail during oncogenesis, leading to the aberrant divisions and rapid proliferation characteristic of cancer cells.

Selected Publications:

Buske, P. J., A. Mittal, R. V. Pappu, and P. A. Levin (2014) An intrinsically disordered linker plays a critical role in bacterial cell division. Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology (In press).

Arjes, H. A. , A. Kriel, N. A. Sorto, J. T. Shaw, J. D. Wang and P. A. Levin. (2014) Failsafe mechanisms couple division and DNA replication in bacteria. Current Biology. 24(18): 2149-2155. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.07.055.

Land, A. D., Q, Luo, and P. A. Levin (2014) Functional domain analysis of the cell division inhibitor EzrA. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102616. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102616.

Hill, N. S., P. J. Buske, Y. Shi, and P. A. Levin. (2013) A moonlighting enzyme links Escherichia coli cell size with central metabolism. PLoS Genetics 9(7): e1003663.doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.10036. 6.

Buske, P. J. and P. A. Levin. (2013) A flexible C-terminal linker is required for proper FtsZ assembly in vitro and cytokinetic ring formation in vivo. Mol. Microbiol. 2:249-263. PMID: 23692518

Chien, A-C, S. K. Zareh, Y. M. Wang and P. A. Levin. Changes in the oligomerization potential of the division inhibitor UgtP coordinate Bacillus subtilis cell size with nutrient availability. Mol. Microbiol. 2012 86:594-610. PMID: 22931116

Chien, A-C., N. S. Hill and P. A. Levin. (2012) Cell size control in bacteria. Current Biology, 22(9):R340-R349

Last Updated: 10/16/2014 6:56:20 PM

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