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Mol Microbiol. 2006 May;60(4):853-69.

The chromosome partitioning proteins Soj (ParA) and Spo0J (ParB) contribute to accurate chromosome partitioning, separation of replicated sister origins, and regulation of replication initiation in Bacillus subtilis.

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Department of Biology, Building 68-530, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Soj (ParA) and Spo0J (ParB) of Bacillus subtilis belong to a conserved family of proteins required for efficient plasmid and chromosome partitioning in many bacterial species. Unlike most Par systems, for which intact copies of both parA and parB are required for the Par system to function, inactivating soj does not cause a detectable chromosome partitioning phenotype whereas inactivating spo0J leads to a 100-fold increase in the production of anucleate cells. This suggested either that Soj does not function like other ParA homologues, or that a cellular factor might compensate for the absence of soj. We found that inactivating smc, the gene encoding the structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) protein, unmasked a role for Soj in chromosome partitioning. A soj null mutation dramatically enhanced production of anucleate cells in an smc null mutant. To look for effects of a soj null on other phenotypes perturbed in a spo0J null mutant, we analysed replication initiation and origin positioning in (soj-spo0J)+, Deltasoj, Deltaspo0J and Delta(soj-spo0J) cells. All of the mutations caused increased initiation of replication and, to varying extents, affected origin positioning. Using a new assay to measure separation of the chromosomal origins, we found that inactivating soj, spo0J or both led to a significant defect in separating replicated sister origins, such that the origins remain too close to be spatially resolved. Separation of a region outside the origin was not affected. These results indicate that there are probably factors helping to pair sister origin regions for part of the replication cycle, and that Soj and Spo0J may antagonize this pairing to contribute to timely separation of replicated origins. The effects of Deltasoj, Deltaspo0J and Delta(soj-spo0J) mutations on origin positioning, chromosome partitioning and replication initiation may be a secondary consequence of a defect in separating replicated origins.

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