Targeting cell division: small-molecule inhibitors of FtsZ GTPase perturb cytokinetic ring assembly and induce bacterial lethality. Academic Article uri icon


  • FtsZ, the ancestral homolog of eukaryotic tubulins, is a GTPase that assembles into a cytokinetic ring structure essential for cell division in prokaryotic cells. Similar to tubulin, purified FtsZ polymerizes into dynamic protofilaments in the presence of GTP; polymer assembly is accompanied by GTP hydrolysis. We used a high-throughput protein-based chemical screen to identify small molecules that target assembly-dependent GTPase activity of FtsZ. Here, we report the identification of five structurally diverse compounds, named Zantrins, which inhibit FtsZ GTPase either by destabilizing the FtsZ protofilaments or by inducing filament hyperstability through increased lateral association. These two classes of FtsZ inhibitors are reminiscent of the antitubulin drugs colchicine and Taxol, respectively. We also show that Zantrins perturb FtsZ ring assembly in Escherichia coli cells and cause lethality to a variety of bacteria in broth cultures, indicating that FtsZ antagonists may serve as chemical leads for the development of new broad-spectrum antibacterial agents. Our results illustrate the utility of small-molecule chemical probes to study FtsZ polymerization dynamics and the feasibility of FtsZ as a novel therapeutic target.

publication date

  • August 10, 2004