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Nature. 2007 Dec 20;450(7173):1268-71.

Segrosome structure revealed by a complex of ParR with centromere DNA.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Unit 1000, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


The stable inheritance of genetic material depends on accurate DNA partition. Plasmids serve as tractable model systems to study DNA segregation because they require only a DNA centromere, a centromere-binding protein and a force-generating ATPase. The centromeres of partition (par) systems typically consist of a tandem arrangement of direct repeats. The best-characterized par system contains a centromere-binding protein called ParR and an ATPase called ParM. In the first step of segregation, multiple ParR proteins interact with the centromere repeats to form a large nucleoprotein complex of unknown structure called the segrosome, which binds ParM filaments. pSK41 ParR binds a centromere consisting of multiple 20-base-pair (bp) tandem repeats to mediate both transcription autoregulation and segregation. Here we report the structure of the pSK41 segrosome revealed in the crystal structure of a ParR-DNA complex. In the crystals, the 20-mer tandem repeats stack pseudo-continuously to generate the full-length centromere with the ribbon-helix-helix (RHH) fold of ParR binding successive DNA repeats as dimer-of-dimers. Remarkably, the dimer-of-dimers assemble in a continuous protein super-helical array, wrapping the DNA about its positive convex surface to form a large segrosome with an open, solenoid-shaped structure, suggesting a mechanism for ParM capture and subsequent plasmid segregation.

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