Condensation and localization of the partitioning protein ParB on the bacterial chromosome

Chase P. Broedersz, Xindan Wang, Yigal Meir, Joseph J. Loparo, David Z. Rudner, Ned S. Wingreen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


The ParABS system mediates chromosome segregation and plasmid partitioning in many bacteria. As part of the partitioning mechanism, ParB proteins form a nucleoprotein complex at parS sites. The biophysical basis underlying ParB-DNA complex formation and localization remains elusive. Specifically, it is unclear whether ParB spreads in 1D along DNA or assembles into a 3D protein-DNA complex. We show that a combination of 1D spreading bonds and a single 3D bridging bond between ParB proteins constitutes a minimal model for a condensed ParB-DNA complex. This model implies a scaling behavior for ParB-mediated silencing of parS-flanking genes, which we confirm to be satisfied by experimental data from P1 plasmids. Furthermore, this model is consistent with experiments on the effects of DNA roadblocks on ParB localization. Finally, we show experimentally that a single parS site is necessary and sufficient for ParB-DNA complex formation in vivo. Together with our model, this suggests that ParB binding to parS triggers a conformational switch in ParB that overcomes a nucleation barrier. Conceptually, the combination of spreading and bridging bonds in our model provides a surface tension ensuring the condensation of the ParB-DNA complex, with analogies to liquid-like compartments such as nucleoli in eukaryotes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8809-8814
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Par system
  • Protein localization
  • Protein-DNA condensate


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