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J Bacteriol. 2010 Jan;192(2):539-52. doi: 10.1128/JB.00985-09. Epub 2009 Nov 6.

Polar localization of the CckA histidine kinase and cell cycle periodicity of the essential master regulator CtrA in Caulobacter crescentus.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8103, USA.


The phosphorylated form of the response regulator CtrA represses DNA replication initiation and regulates the transcription of about 100 cell cycle-regulated genes in Caulobacter crescentus. CtrA activity fluctuates during the cell cycle, and its periodicity is a key element of the engine that drives cell cycle progression. The histidine kinase CckA controls the phosphorylation not only of CtrA but also of CpdR, whose unphosphorylated form promotes CtrA proteolysis. Thus, CckA has a central role in establishing the cell cycle periodicity of CtrA activity by controlling both its phosphorylation and stability. Evidence suggests that the polar localization of CckA during the cell cycle plays a role in CckA function. However, the exact pattern of CckA localization remains controversial. Here, we describe a thorough, quantitative analysis of the spatiotemporal distribution of a functional and chromosomally produced CckA-monomeric green fluorescent protein fusion that affects current models of cell cycle regulation. We also identify two cis-acting regions in CckA that are important for its proper localization and function. The disruption of a PAS-like motif in the sensor domain affects the stability of CckA accumulation at the poles. This is accompanied by a partial loss in CckA function. Shortening an extended linker between beta-sheets within the CckA catalysis-assisting ATP-binding domain has a more severe effect on CckA polar localization and function. This mutant strain exhibits a dramatic cell-to-cell variability in CpdR levels and CtrA cell cycle periodicity, suggesting that the cell cycle-coordinated polar localization of CckA may be important for the robustness of signal transduction and cell cycle progression.

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