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EMBO J. 2002 Sep 2;21(17):4420-8.

A dynamically localized histidine kinase controls the asymmetric distribution of polar pili proteins.

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Department of Developmental Biology, Beckman Center, B351, 279 Campus Drive, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA 94305-5329, USA.


Each cell division in Caulobacter crescentus is asymmetric, yielding a swarmer cell with several polar pili and a non-piliated stalked cell. To identify factors contributing to the asymmetric biogenesis of polar pili, cytological studies of pilus assembly components were performed. We show here that the CpaC protein, which is thought to form the outer membrane pilus secretion channel, and its assembly factor, CpaE, are localized to the cell pole prior to the polymerization of the pilus filament. We demonstrate that the PleC histidine kinase, a two-component signal transduction protein shown previously to localize to the piliated cell pole before and during pilus assembly, controls the accumulation of the pilin subunit, PilA. Using an inactive form of PleC (PleCH610A) that lacks the catalytic histidine residue, we provide evidence that PleC activity is responsible for the asymmetric distribution of CpaE and itself to only one of the two cell poles. Thus, a polar signal transduction protein controls its own asymmetric location as well as that of a factor assembling a polar organelle.

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