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Mol Microbiol. 2014 Aug;93(4):713-35. doi: 10.1111/mmi.12686. Epub 2014 Jul 17.

Identification of essential alphaproteobacterial genes reveals operational variability in conserved developmental and cell cycle systems.

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Department of Biology, University of Mississippi, University, MS, 38677, USA.


The cell cycle of Caulobacter crescentus is controlled by a complex signalling network that co-ordinates events. Genome sequencing has revealed many C. crescentus cell cycle genes are conserved in other Alphaproteobacteria, but it is not clear to what extent their function is conserved. As many cell cycle regulatory genes are essential in C. crescentus, the essential genes of two Alphaproteobacteria, Agrobacterium tumefaciens (Rhizobiales) and Brevundimonas subvibrioides (Caulobacterales), were elucidated to identify changes in cell cycle protein function over different phylogenetic distances as demonstrated by changes in essentiality. The results show the majority of conserved essential genes are involved in critical cell cycle processes. Changes in component essentiality reflect major changes in lifestyle, such as divisome components in A. tumefaciens resulting from that organism's different growth pattern. Larger variability of essentiality was observed in cell cycle regulators, suggesting regulatory mechanisms are more customizable than the processes they regulate. Examples include variability in the essentiality of divJ and divK spatial cell cycle regulators, and non-essentiality of the highly conserved and usually essential DNA methyltransferase CcrM. These results show that while essential cell functions are conserved across varying genetic distance, much of a given organism's essential gene pool is specific to that organism.

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