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MreBCD-associated Cytoskeleton is Required for Proper Segregation of the Chromosomal Terminus during the Division Cycle of Escherichia Coli.

Byline: Yu-Jia. Huo, Ling. Qiao, Xiao-Wei. Zheng, Cheng. Cui, Yuan-Fang. Ma, Feng. Lu

Background: In prokaryotic organisms, the mechanism responsible for the accurate partition of newly replicated chromosomes into daughter cells is incompletely understood. Segregation of the replication terminus of the circular prokaryotic chromosome poses special problems that have not previously been addressed. The aim of this study was to investigate the roles of several protein components (MreB, MreC, and MreD) of the prokaryotic cytoskeleton for the faithful transmission of the chromosomal terminus into daughter cells. Methods: Strain LQ1 (mreB::cat), LQ2 (mreC::cat), and LQ3 (mreD::cat) were constructed using the Red recombination system. LQ11/pLAU53, LQ12/pLAU53, LQ13/pLAU53, LQ14/pLAU53, and LQ15/pLAU53 strains were generated by P1transduction of (tetO) [sub]240 -Gm and (lacO) [sub]240 -Km cassettes from strains IL2 and IL29. Fluorescence microscopy was performed to observe localization pattern of fluorescently-labeled origin and terminus foci in wild-type and mutant cells. SOS induction was monitored as gfp fluorescence from PsulA-gfp in log phase cells grown in Luria-Bertani medium at 37[degrees]C by measurement of emission at 525 nm with excitation at 470 nm in a microplate fluorescence reader. Results: Mutational deletion of the mreB, mreC, or mreD genes was associated with selective loss of the terminus region in approximately 40% of the cells within growing cultures. This was accompanied by significant induction of the SOS DNA damage response, suggesting that deletion of terminus sequences may have occurred by chromosomal cleavage, presumably caused by ingrowth of the division septum prior to segregation of the replicated terminal. Conclusions: These results imply a role for the MreBCD cytoskeleton in the resolution of the final products of terminus replication and/or in the specific movement of newly replicated termini away from midcell prior to completion of septal ingrowth. This would identify a previously unrecognized stage in the overall process of chromosome segregation.


Cell survival requires that replicated chromosomes be moved to opposite ends of the cell prior to the formation of the division septum. In cells with linear chromosomes (i.e., most eukaryotic cells), segregation of individual chromosomes is accomplished by first attaching mitotic spindle fibers to a centromeric region on each daughter chromosome, and then pulling apart of the paired daughter chromosomes toward opposite cell poles.

Could cytoskeletal elements contribute to DNA segregation in bacteria? In cells with circular chromosomes (i.e., most prokaryotic cells), the problem is more complicated. In most prokaryotic species, the cell contains a single circular chromosome. As exemplified by Escherichia coli , replication of the circular chromosome is initiated at a single site ( oriC ). Replication then proceeds bidirectionally around the circle until the two oppositely oriented replication forks approach a termination region approximately 180[degrees] away from the initiation site.

The chromosome segregation process begins shortly after replication of oriC. In several organisms and plasmids depolymerization of polymeric partition proteins (e.g., parA of Caulobacter crescentus ) that are attached to centromeric sites near oriC provides the force to pull the origin regions of the daughter chromosomes away from midcell toward the poles. [sup][1] As a result, the oriC region and oriC-proximal domains are progressively segregated away from the midcell replication site before chromosome replication is completed. [sup][2] Segregation of the chromosomal terminus region is less well-understood. The present work suggests that the bacterial cytoskeleton plays an essential role in this process.

The morphogenetic cytoskeleton of E. coli is a pole-to-pole helical structure that is associated with the cytoplasmic membrane is based on a framework of three proteins-MreB (an actin homolog), MreC, and MreD. [sup][3] In the absence of any of these proteins, cells lose their rod shape and grow as spheres or elongated spheres. The cytoskeletal proteins reorganize late in the cell cycle into annular ring structures that flank the division site at midcell. [sup][4]

MreB is a bacterial actin that forms a complex with MreC, MreD, Pbp2, RodA, and MurG, plays a critical role in chromosome segregation on C. crescentus and E. coli . The MreB helix is probably anchored to the cell membrane via its interaction with MreC and MreD. The separation of oriC is dependent on MreB in both organisms. It has been suggested that either MreB could provide a track for motor-like proteins to move chromosome or its polymerization could provide the force for DNA movement. [sup][5] Little is known about the mechanism of chromosome segregation in bacteria

We report here that mutational loss of any of the components of the MreBCD cytoskeleton leads to differential loss of the chromosomal terminus region from a significant portion of cells in growing population. This implies a previously unrecognized role for the prokaryotic cytoskeleton in which the cytoskeletal system participates in equipartition of the terminus regions of replicated chromosomes into daughter cells.


Strains, plasmids, and growth conditions

Escherichia coli strains were grown in Luria-Bertani (LB) medium to which 100 [micro]g/ml ampicillin, 30 [micro]g/ml kanamycin, 30 [micro]g/ml chloramphenicol, or 0.4% (w/v) glucose were added when indicated. [sup][6] Plasmids and strains are listed in [Table 1], and the details of their construction are available upon request.{Table 1}

The strain IL2 has the gentamicin resistant tetO repeat cassette at the attTn7 site (84.2-min map position) localized near the replication origin oriC (3909 kb position). The strain IL29 has the kanamycin resistant lacO repeat cassette localized near the dif site (1803 kb position). [sup][2] Strain LQ1 ( mreB::Cat ), LQ2( mreC::Cat ), and LQ3( mreD::Cat ) were generated using the Red recombination system. [sup][7] The mreB , mreC, and mreD coding seguence were replaced by a cat cassette transcribed in the opposite direction to mreB, mreC, and mreD . LQ1, LQ2, and LQ3 were cured for the cat cassette to generate LQ6 ( ?mreB ), LQ7 ( ?mreC ) and LQ8 ( ?mreD ). [sup][7] Deletion mutants were confirmed by PCR and sequencing using specific primers for mreB, mreC, and mreD. LQ11/pLAU53, LQ12/pLAU53, LQ13/pLAU53, LQ14/pLAU53, and LQ15/pLAU53 strains were generated by P1transduction of ( tetO ) [sub]240 -Gm and ( lacO ) [sub]240 -Km cassettes from strains IL2 and IL29. [sup][8] The presence of the cassettes in the transductants was confirmed by PCR.

Plasmid pLAU53 enconding TetR-EYFP and LacI-CFP fusion proteins, of which expression is controlled by the promoter P [sub]BAD of the ara operon. To induce TetR-EYFP and LacI-CFP, L-(+)-arabinose (0.01%) was added to cultures. Cultures were incubated at 30[degrees]C for 2 h for the induction. [sup][2]


Fluorescence microscopy was performed as previously described. [sup][9] All strains contained plasmid pLAU53. Unless stated otherwise, For study of EYFP-and CFP-labeled proteins, cells were grown overnight in L-broth containing 0.5% NaCl with appropriate antibodies at 37[degrees]C in the presence of 0.4% glucose (w/v), and then diluted to OD [sub]600 ≈ 0.1 and grown at 37[degrees]C to OD [sub]600 of 0.4-0.6. They were induced with 0.01% L-arabinose until fluorescent foci appeared (20-45 min for ori and ter foci). Cells were visualized with a 100x objective on a BX-50 Olympus microscope (Olypus Corp., Tokyo, Japan), equipped with a cooled CCD camera (Hamamatsu photonics, K. K., Hamamatsu, Japan) and a temperature-controlled stage. The CFP and EYFP foci were visualized using the 31044v2 and 41028 filters (Chroma). The images were collected and analyzed for number and localization of fluorescent foci by VOLOCITY or OPENLAB programs (improvision) and processed by Adobe Photoshop. [sup][8]

SOS assay

SOS expression was monitored in log phase cells grown in LB medium at 37[degrees]C. [sup][10] All strains contained plasmid P[sub] sulA -gfp . Fluorescence was determined by measurement of emission at 525 nm with excitation at 470 nm in a microplate fluorescence reader (Molecular Device, CA, USA). Fluorescence intensity was expressed as arbitrary units per 10 [sup]9 cells. SOS response induction by UV was carried out using the UV oven (Bio-Link, Vilber Lourmat, France) equipped with five fluorescent lamps of 8 W each, emitting from 180 to 280 nm with a peak at 254 nm. UV doses were programmed and are controlled by a radiometer that constantly monitors the UV light emission. For measuring induction of promoters by UV, 1-ml portions of lat-exponential-phase cultures (OD [sub]600 = 0.6) of strains containing P [sub]sulA -gfp fusion were irradiated for 2 min in an open Petri dish placed 25 cm beneath the lamp (the UV oven, 0.2 kJ/m [sup]2 ). Afterward, the cultures were used for measurement of production of gfp.


Localization of oriC and terminus regions in ?mreB , ?mreC, and ?mreD cells

The topological localization of origin ( oriC ) and terminus regions of the chromosome was determined in intact cells as previously described. [sup][2] To accomplish this, a cassette containing multiple copies of the tet operator ( tetO ) was inserted into the chromosome adjacent to oriC , and a cassette containing multiple copies of the lac operator ( lacO ) was inserted close to the terminus region. The fluorescent probes Eyfp-TetR and Cfp-LacI were then expressed from a resident plasmid. The probes differentially associate with the tetO and lacO cassette, respectively. Fluorescence microscopy was used to identify the differentially labeled foci to determine the number and positions of the labeled origin and terminus foci within intact cells.

Previous work using this approaches established that chromosome replication , [sup][2] as indicated by duplication of the oriC and terminus foci, occurs near midcell. Shortly after their replication, the duplicated oriC regions are rapidly segregated in opposite directions toward the two poles. Duplication and separation of the replicated terminus regions occur approximately 40-60 min after duplication of oriC , shortly before ingrowth of the division septum. [sup][2] This gives rise to two daughter cells which each contains one complete chromosome.

In the present study, the positions of oriC and terminus foci were first determined in cultures of wild type cells of the parental strain MC1000 [Table 2]. Visible oriC foci were present in 99% of cells. Amongst the 70% of cells that contained two oriC foci, the foci were always located in opposite halves of the cell. The presence of more than two oriC foci in many cells (15%) reflects the fact that reinitiation of replication at each of the two replicated oriC sites can occur in cells that have not yet replicated the terminus region of the original parental chromosome. 90% of cells contained a single terminus focus. In some cells, the single focus may have represented two closely located paired termini that were not microscopically resolved. No special effort was made to distinguish this subpopulation. These results were generally consistent with previous studies.{Table 2}

We also performed the oriC and terminus localization studies in strains containing chromosomal deletions of the genes for the cytoskeletal MreB, MreC, and MreD proteins. As expected the mutations led to a change in cell shape from rods to spheres or elongated spheres [Figure 1]. The mass doubling time of the mutant cells grown in LB medium at 37[degrees]C, estimated by an increase in optical density at 600 nm, was 70-80 min compared with 35-40 min for the rod-shaped parental cells.{Figure 1}

In contrast to the results in the wild type strain, terminus foci were absent in 57% ?mreB, 29% ?mreC and 44% of ?mreD cells [Figure 1] and [Table 3]. The results were similar in repeated experiments and were unaffected by the order in which the Yfp and Cfp fluorescence measurements were obtained. Only 1-2% of cells contained a terminus focus but lacked an oriC focus.{Table 3}

Origin and terminus foci were both absent in 12% of ?mreB cells and 1-4% of ?mreC and ?mreD cells [Table 3]. These are likely to represent anucleate cells. Anucleate cells have previously been reported in up to 25% of MreB-depleted cells. [sup][11] Several previous reports have suggested a role for MreB in segregation of oriC into daughter cells whereas other studies have questioned this idea. [sup][12] Further work will be needed to determine whether the increased incidence of oriC -negative cells in the ?mreB strain reflects a specific effect of MreB on oriC segregation.

Escherichia coli and other rod-shaped bacteria contain a group of helical cytoskeletal proteins (MreB, MreC, MreD, Pbp2, and RodA) that have been implicated in several cellular processes, including maintenance of cell shape, chromosome segregation and establishment of cell polarity, and coils around the cell cylinder between the two cell poles. Previous work indicated that mreB , mreC, and mreD are not essential in E. coli as deletions of either the mreB gene or the entire mre operon could be obtained. The spheroidal ?mreB, ?mreC, and ?mreD cells were capable of cell division, as shown by the presence of septa in 28-31% of the ?mreB, ?mreC, and ?mreD cells that contained both oriC and terminus foci. For comparison, septa were present in 28% of the rod-shaped parental strain grown under similar conditions.

Induction of the SOS response in ?mreB, ?mreC, and ?mreD cells

The loss of terminus DNA in ?mreB, ?mreC, and ?mreD cells could have been caused by the ingrowing septum cleaving chromosome DNA that contained unreplicated or newly replicated, but unseparated termini [Figure 2]d. This would give rise to a population of cells that lacked DNA from the terminus region.{Figure 2}

The DNA cleavage event would be expected to induce a cellular SOS response to DNA damage. This has previously been verified for cells that are unable to resolve chromosomal dimmers due to defects in the XerCD/FtsK system. [sup][13] In this case, chromosomal monomers cannot be generated, and septal closure leads to the chromosome cleavage that is associated with induction of the SOS response.

We therefore asked whether the loss of terminus foci in the ?mreB, ?mreC, and ?mreD cells was associated with induction of the SOS response, as expected if loss of termini resulted from the chromosome cleavage. To accomplish this, we monitored SOS induction by use of a P [sub]sulA -gfp probe in which fluorescence emission is a direct measure of induction of the SOS effector promoter P [sub]sulA . [sup][14]

This revealed significant elevation of fluorescence from P [sub]sulA -gfp in ?mreB, ?mreC and ?mreD cells, to approximately 4-8-fold the level of the parental strain [Figure 3]. For comparison, SOS induction due to exposure to the DNA-damaging agent mitomycin C led to a 5.8-fold increase under similar growth conditions.{Figure 3}

Evidence that SOS induction in the ?mreB, ?mreC, and ?mreD cells was not a secondary effect of their spheroidal shape came from study of a pbp2ts strain which, when grown under nonpermissive conditions, also undergoes a rod-to-sphere transition. This showed that the spheroidal pbp2ts cells produced by growth at 42[degrees]C failed to show any increase in P [sub]sulA -yfp fluorescence [Figure 3]. In contrast, growth of ?mreB cells at 42[degrees]C induced the same fluorescence increase as seen at 37[degrees]C. These results indicate that the SOS induction in the ?mreB, ?mreC, and ?mreD cells was not a result of their spheroidal shape.


All dividing cells face the same fundamental problems of chromosome management. Two of the most important are how to ensure that sister chromosomes always segregate regularly into the two daughter cells and how to ensure a one-to-one relationship between DNA replication and cell division. We have tried to investigate the roles of several protein components (MreB, MreC, and MreD) of the prokaryotic cytoskeleton for the faithful transmission of the chromosomal terminus into daughter cells in E. coli with the idea that further understanding of events in this classical model organism might ultimately provide insights applicable to eukaryotic organisms.

Escherichia coli have a single circular chromosome. Replication is initiated from a unique, genetically defined origin and proceeds bidirectionally. Converging forks are resolved approximately halfway around the chromosome in a broad "terminus region" that includes several specialized determinants. Eukaryotic replication is analogous, with each chromosome comprising multiple origins and specialized intervening "terminus region."

The normal chromosome segregation process leads to transmission of complex chromosomal copies into all daughter cells. In the present study, loss of any of the components of the E. coli cytoskeletal MreBCD system led to the loss of DNA sequence from the region of the chromosomal replication terminus in a substantial fraction of the population. This implies that the MreBCD cytoskeleton plays a role in the stability of the terminus region or its faithful partition into daughter cells during the division cycle, thereby identifying a previously unrecognized role for the cytoskeletal structures.

A number of termination-specific events are needed to assure that replication termini are transmitted into both daughter cells. These include: (i) Assuring that DNA replication stops when the converging replication forks reach specific chromosomal termination sites (ter sites); [sup][15] (ii) unlinking of the two interlocked DNA circles (catenanes) that are generated by the replication termination step [Figure 2]b; [sup][10] (iii) resolving the chromosomal dimers that are generated by recombinational crossover [Figure 2]c. [sup][16],[17] the three termination-specific events are carried out by independent protein systems that function at or shortly after the arrival of the two convergent replication forks at the terminus region. Interference with any of these processes leads either to lack of terminus replication or to the accumulation of interlinked or dimeric chromosomes that cannot be separated for subsequent transfer into the two daughter cells.

An additional postreplication event may also be required for normal transmission of the terminus region to the daughter cells. In this case, the recently replicated and resolved regions of the adjacent daughter chromosomes must be promptly moved apart to prevent regeneration of a dimeric chromosome by another futile cycle of Rec-mediated homologous recombination.

Terminus replication and the subsequent resolution of catenated or dimeric daughter chromosomes occur near midcell after origin-proximal regions have been moved toward the two poles earlier in the cell cycle [Figure 2]a. [sup][2] Normally, the terminus-specific events are completed, and the terminus regions are segregated away from midcell prior to completion of septal closure. However, if any of the terminus-specific events fail to occur, the terminus region remains at midcell, where it can be cleaved by the ingrowing septum. Septal closure thus would lead to specific loss of the terminus region in many daughter cells [Figure 2]d. The observation that the SOS response was turned on in the ?mreB, ?mreC and ?mreD cells is consistent with the idea that DNA damage caused by this type of septal guillotine effect occurs in parallel with the preferential loss of terminus regions.

The present results imply that the MreBCD cytoskeleton is required for proper transfer of the terminus region of the chromosome into daughter cells. This could involve a direct or indirect role in the terminus-specific events discussed above. One might imagine, for example, that the cytoskeletal lattice provides a framework on which the termination-specific systems carry out their functions in a coordinated way. Alternatively, the cytoskeletal elements could actively move the terminal regions away from the midcell site prior to septal closure.

Further work will be needed to distinguish between these and other possible explanations of the present observation and to define the molecular details of this phenomenon.


We thank Lawrence Rothfield (University of Connecticut Health Center, USA) for helpful comments, suggestions and critical reading of the manuscript.


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Title Annotation:Original Article
Author:Huo, Yu-Jia; Qiao, Ling; Zheng, Xiao-Wei; Cui, Cheng; Ma, Yuan-Fang; Lu, Feng
Publication:Chinese Medical Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Sep 1, 2015
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