DnaA coordinates replication initiation and cell cycle transcription in Caulobacter crescentus


E-mail hmcadams@stanford.edu; Tel. (+1) 650 858 1864; Fax (+1) 650 858 1886.


The level of DnaA, a key bacterial DNA replication initiation factor, increases during the Caulobacter swarmer-to-stalked transition just before the G1/S transition. We show that DnaA coordinates DNA replication initiation with cell cycle progression by acting as a global transcription factor. Using DnaA depletion and induction in synchronized cell populations, we have analysed global transcription patterns to identify the differential regulation of normally co-expressed genes. The DnaA regulon includes genes encoding several replisome components, the GcrA global cell cycle regulator, the PodJ polar localization protein, the FtsZ cell division protein, and nucleotide biosynthesis enzymes. In cells depleted of DnaA, the G1/S transition is temporally separated from the swarmer-to-stalked cell differentiation, which is normally coincident. In the absence of DnaA, the CtrA master regulator is cleared by proteolysis during the swarmer-to-stalked cell transition as usual, but DNA replication initiation is blocked. In this case, expression of gcrA, which is directly repressed by CtrA, does not increase in conjunction with the disappearance of CtrA until DnaA is subsequently induced, showing that gcrA expression requires DnaA. DnaA boxes are present upstream of many genes whose expression requires DnaA, and His6-DnaA binds to the promoters of gcrA, ftsZ and podJ in vitro. This redundant control of gcrA transcription by DnaA (activation) and CtrA (repression) forms a robust switch controlling the decision to proceed through the cell cycle or to remain in the G1 stage.