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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Apr;40(2):485-97.

Physiological consequences of blocked Caulobacter crescentus dnaA expression, an essential DNA replication gene.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, McGill University, 3775 University Street, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2B4.


Caulobacter crescentus chromosome replication is precisely coupled to a developmental cell cycle. Like most eubacteria, C. crescentus has a DnaA homologue that is presumed to initiate chromosome replication. However, the C. crescentus replication origin (Cori) lacks perfect consensus Escherichia coli DnaA boxes. Instead, the Cori strong transcription promoter (Ps) may regulate chromosome replication through the CtrA cell cycle response regulator. We therefore created a conditional dnaA C. crescentus strain. Blocking dnaA expression immediately decreased DNA synthesis, which stopped after approximately one doubling period. Fluorescent flow cytometry confirmed that DNA synthesis is blocked at the initiation stage. Cell division also stopped, but not swarmer to stalked cell differentiation. All cells became stalked cells that grew as long filaments. Therefore, general transcription and protein synthesis continued, whereas DNA synthesis stopped. However, transcription was selectively blocked from the flagellar fliQ and fliL and methyltransferase ccrM promoters, which require CtrA and are blocked by different DNA synthesis inhibitors. Interestingly, transcription from Cori Ps continued unaltered. Therefore, Ps transcription is not sufficient for chromosome replication. Approximately 6-8 h after blocked dnaA expression, cells lost viability exponentially. Coincidentally, beta-galactosidase was induced from one transcription reporter, suggesting an altered physiology. We conclude that C. crescentus DnaA is essential for chromosome replication initiation, and perhaps also has a wider role in cell homeostasis.

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