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J Bacteriol. 2002 Oct;184(19):5317-22.

Structural maintenance of chromosomes protein of Bacillus subtilis affects supercoiling in vivo.

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Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) proteins are found in nearly all organisms. Members of this protein family are involved in chromosome condensation and sister chromatid cohesion. Bacillus subtilis SMC protein (BsSMC) plays a role in chromosome organization and partitioning. To better understand the function of BsSMC, we studied the effects of an smc null mutation on DNA supercoiling in vivo. We found that an smc null mutant was hypersensitive to the DNA gyrase inhibitors coumermycin A1 and norfloxacin. Furthermore, depleting cells of topoisomerase I substantially suppressed the partitioning defect of an smc null mutant. Plasmid DNA isolated from an smc null mutant was more negatively supercoiled than that from wild-type cells. In vivo cross-linking experiments indicated that BsSMC was bound to the plasmid. Our results indicate that BsSMC affects supercoiling in vivo, most likely by constraining positive supercoils, an activity which contributes to chromosome compaction and organization.

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