In Bacillus subtilis, FtsZ ring formation and cell division is favoured at the midcell because the inhibitor proteins MinC and MinD are indirectly restricted to the cell poles by the protein DivIVA. Here we identify MinJ, a topological determinant of medial FtsZ positioning that acts as an intermediary between DivIVA and MinD. Due to unrestricted MinD activity, cells mutated for minJ exhibited pleiotropic defects in homologous recombination, swarming motility and cell division. MinJ restricted MinD activity by localizing MinD to the cell poles through direct protein–protein interaction. MinJ itself localized to cell poles in a manner that was dependent on DivIVA. MinJ is conserved in other low G+C Gram-positive bacteria and may be an important component of cell division site selection in these organisms.