Caulobacter chromosome segregation is an ordered multistep process

Conrad W. Shebelut, Jonathan M. Guberman, Sven Van Teeffelen, Anastasiya A. Yakhnina, Zemer Gitai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Despite its fundamental nature, bacterial chromosome segregation remains poorly understood. Viewing segregation as a single process caused multiple proposed mechanisms to appear in conflict and failed to explain how asymmetrically dividing bacteria break symmetry to move only one of their chromosomes. Here, we demonstrate that the ParA ATPase extends from one cell pole and pulls the chromosome by retracting upon association with the ParB DNA-binding protein. Surprisingly, ParA disruption has a specific effect on chromosome segregation that only perturbs the latter stages of this process. Using quantitative high-resolution imaging, we demonstrate that this specificity results from the multistep nature of chromosome translocation. We propose that Caulobacter chromosome segregation follows an ordered pathway of events with distinct functions and mechanisms. Initiation releases polar tethering of the origin of replication, distinction spatially differentiates the two chromosomes, and commitment irreversibly translocates the distal centromeric locus. Thus, much as eukaryotic mitosis involves a sequence of distinct subprocesses, Caulobacter cells also segregate their chromosomes through an orchestrated series of steps. We discuss how the multistep view of bacterial chromosome segregation can help to explain and reconcile outstanding puzzles and frame future investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14194-14198
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number32
StatePublished - Aug 10 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Bacterial cell biology
  • Par system
  • Quantitative image analysis


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