A Chemical Inhibitor of Cell Growth Reduces Cell Size in Bacillus subtilis

Scott McAuley, Stephen Vadia, Charul Jani, Alan Huynh, Zhizhou Yang, Petra Anne Levin, Justin R. Nodwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Bacteria exhibit complex responses to biologically active small molecules. These responses include reductions in transcriptional and translational efficiency, alterations in metabolic flux, and in some cases, dramatic changes in growth and morphology. Here, we describe Min-1, a novel small molecule that inhibits growth of Gram-positive bacteria by targeting the cell envelope. Subinhibitory levels of Min-1 inhibits sporulation in Streptomyces venezuelae and reduces growth rate and cell length in Bacillus subtilis. The effect of Min-1 on B. subtilis cell length is significant at high growth rates sustained by nutrient-rich media but drops off when growth rate is reduced during growth on less energy-rich carbon sources. In each medium, Min-1 has no impact on the proportion of cells containing FtsZ-rings, suggesting that Min-1 reduces the mass at which FtsZ assembly is initiated. The effect of Min-1 on size is independent of UDP-glucose, which couples cell division to carbon availability, and the alarmone ppGpp, which reduces cell size via its impact on fatty acid synthesis. Min-1 activates the LiaRS stress response, which is sensitive to disruptions in the lipid II cycle and the cell membrane, and also compromises cell membrane integrity. Therefore, this novel synthetic molecule inhibits growth at high concentrations and induces a short-cell phenotype at subinhibitory concentrations that is independent of known systems that influence cell length, highlighting the complex interactions between small molecules and cell morphology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)688-695
Number of pages8
JournalACS Chemical Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 19 2019


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