In rod-shaped bacteria, septal peptidoglycan synthesis involves the late recruitment of the ftsI gene product (PBP3 in Escherichia coli) to the FtsZ ring. We show that in Caulobacter crescentus, PBP3 accumulates at the new pole at the beginning of the cell cycle. Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching experiments reveal that polar PBP3 molecules are, constantly and independently of FtsZ, replaced by those present in the cellular pool, implying that polar PBP3 is not a remnant of the previous division. By the time cell constriction is initiated, all PBP3 polar accumulation has disappeared in favour of an FtsZ-dependent localization near midcell, consistent with PBP3 function in cell division. Kymograph analysis of time-lapse experiments shows that the recruitment of PBP3 to the FtsZ ring is progressive and initiated very early on, shortly after FtsZ ring formation and well before cell constriction starts. Accumulation of PBP3 near midcell is also highly dynamic with a rapid exchange of PBP3 molecules between midcell and cellular pools. Localization of PBP3 at both midcell and pole appears multifactorial, primarily requiring the catalytic site of PBP3. Collectively, our results suggest a role for PBP3 in pole morphogenesis and provide new insights into the process of peptidoglycan assembly during division. © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.