Small Molecule Chelators Reveal That Iron Starvation Inhibits Late Stages of Bacterial Cytokinesis

Bacterial cell division requires identification of the division site, assembly of the division machinery, and constriction of the cell envelope. These processes are regulated in response to several cellular and environmental signals. Here, we use small molecule iron chelators to characterize the surprising connections between bacterial iron homeostasis and cell division. We demonstrate that iron starvation downregulates the transcription of genes encoding proteins involved in cell division, reduces protein biosynthesis, and prevents correct positioning of the division machinery at the division site. These combined events arrest the constriction of the cell during late stages of cytokinesis in a manner distinct from known mechanisms of inhibiting cell division. Overexpression of genes encoding cell division proteins or iron transporters partially suppresses the biological activity of iron chelators and restores growth and division. We propose a model demonstrating the effect of iron availability on the regulatory mechanisms coordinating division in response to the nutritional state of the cell.