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Mol Microbiol. 2004 Jul;53(2):419-32.

Structural analysis of the chromosome segregation protein Spo0J from Thermus thermophilus.

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MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QH, UK.


Prokaryotic chromosomes and plasmids encode partitioning systems that are required for DNA segregation at cell division. The plasmid partitioning loci encode two proteins, ParA and ParB, and a cis-acting centromere-like site denoted parS. The chromosomally encoded homologues of ParA and ParB, Soj and Spo0J, play an active role in chromosome segregation during bacterial cell division and sporulation. Spo0J is a DNA-binding protein that binds to parS sites in vivo. We have solved the X-ray crystal structure of a C-terminally truncated Spo0J (amino acids 1-222) from Thermus thermophilus to 2.3 A resolution by multiwavelength anomalous dispersion. It is a DNA-binding protein with structural similarity to the helix-turn-helix (HTH) motif of the lambda repressor DNA-binding domain. The crystal structure is an antiparallel dimer with the recognition alpha-helices of the HTH motifs of each monomer separated by a distance of 34 A corresponding to the length of the helical repeat of B-DNA. Sedimentation velocity and equilibrium ultracentrifugation studies show that full-length Spo0J exists in a monomer-dimer equilibrium in solution and that Spo0J1-222 is exclusively monomeric. Sedimentation of the C-terminal domain of Spo0J shows it to be exclusively dimeric, confirming that the C-terminus is the primary dimerization domain. We hypothesize that the C-terminus mediates dimerization of Spo0J, thereby effectively increasing the local concentration of the N-termini, which most probably dimerize, as shown by our structure, upon binding to a cognate parS site.

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