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Microbiology. 2013 Aug;159(Pt 8):1552-63. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.067504-0. Epub 2013 May 31.

The Sinorhizobium meliloti sensor histidine kinase CbrA contributes to free-living cell cycle regulation.

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Department of Biology, 100 Morrissey Boulevard, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA 02125, USA.


Sinorhizobium meliloti is alternately capable of colonizing the soil as a free-living bacterium or establishing a chronic intracellular infection with its legume host for the purpose of nitrogen fixation. We previously identified the S. meliloti two-component sensor histidine kinase CbrA as playing an important role in regulating exopolysaccharide production, flagellar motility and symbiosis. Phylogenetic analysis of CbrA has highlighted its evolutionary relatedness to the Caulobacter crescentus sensor histidine kinases PleC and DivJ, which are involved in CtrA-dependent cell cycle regulation through the shared response regulator DivK. We therefore became interested in testing whether CbrA plays a role in regulating S. meliloti cell cycle processes. We find the loss of cbrA results in filamentous cell growth accompanied by cells that contain an aberrant genome complement, indicating CbrA plays a role in regulating cell division and possibly DNA segregation. S. meliloti DivK localizes to the old cell pole during distinct phases of the cell cycle in a phosphorylation-dependent manner. Loss of cbrA results in a significantly decreased rate of DivK polar localization when compared with the wild-type, suggesting CbrA helps regulate cell cycle processes by modulating DivK phosphorylation status as a kinase. Consistent with a presumptive decrease in DivK phosphorylation and activity, we also find the steady-state level of CtrA increased in cbrA mutants. Our data therefore demonstrate that CbrA contributes to free-living cell cycle regulation, which in light of its requirement for symbiosis, points to the potential importance of cell cycle regulation for establishing an effective host interaction.

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