Erin Goley

erin180x180Dr. Goley’s research focuses on bacterial cell biology, with an emphasis on cytoskeletal function during growth and division using the α-proteobacterium, Caulobacter crescentus, as a model.

Dr. Goley received her undergraduate degree in biochemistry and mathematics from Hood College and her Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley. She completed postdoctoral training with Lucy Shapiro at Stanford University and joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2011.

She is a member of the American Society for Cell Biology, the American Society for Microbiology, and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Dr. Goley received an Innovation Award from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Discovery Fund. She was a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.

Cytoskeletal regulation of cell wall metabolism for division in Caulobacter crescentus

Bacterial cell division requires the concerted effort of dozens of proteins, termed the divisome, that collectively drive remodeling of the multi-layered cell envelope to physically separate the cell into two daughters. At the core of the divisome is the polymerizing GTPase FtsZ. Multiple roles have been ascribed to FtsZ during division: initiation of divisome assembly, localization of peptidoglycan (PG) cell wall metabolism, and potentially generation of constrictive force. Despite more than two decades of intense studies, questions remain regarding the mechanisms by which FtsZ executes these functions during division. What is the structure of FtsZ filaments within the Z-ring in cells and how are the assembly properties of FtsZ regulated? How do the structure and dynamics of the Z-ring affect force generation and/or the regulation of PG metabolism?

Using the dimorphic α-proteobacterium Caulobacter crescentus as a model, we are addressing these questions using a combination of genetics, live cell imaging, and in vitro reconstitution of FtsZ assembly. Through this work, we have identified three critical modes of regulation of the downstream effects of FtsZ on PG metabolism. First, intramolecular regulation of FtsZ assembly and function through its disordered C-terminal linker is critical for synthesis of a robust cell wall.

Eliminating the linker entirely leads to profound FtsZ assembly defects in vitro and aberrant Z-rings and lethal defects in cell wall synthesis in vivo. Second, proteins that bring FtsZ to the membrane are critical determinants of its downstream function. We have characterized three membrane anchoring proteins for FtsZ in Caulobacter, each with distinct effects on the Z-ring and on cell division. Finally, regulation of FtsZ filament superstructure by a curvature-inducing protein called FzlA is implicated in the regulation of constriction rate during division. Collectively, these studies are providing an increasingly clear picture of the role of FtsZ and its key regulators in directing PG synthesis for division in Caulobacter.