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Summary

Upon initiating replication of the Caulobacter chromosome, one copy of the parS centromere remains at the stalked pole; the other moves to the distal pole. We identified the segregation dynamics and compaction characteristics of newly replicated Caulobacter DNA during transport (highly variable from cell to cell) using time-lapse fluorescence microscopy. The parS centromere and a length (also highly variable) of parS proximal DNA on each arm of the chromosome are segregated with the same relatively slow transport pattern as the parS locus. Newly replicated DNA further than about 100 kb from parS segregates with a different and faster pattern, while loci at 48 kb from parS segregate with the slow pattern in some cells and the fast pattern in others. The observed parS-proximal DNA compaction characteristics have scaling properties that suggest the DNA is branched. HU2-deletion strains exhibited a reduced compaction phenotype except near the parS site where only the ΔHU1ΔHU2 double mutant had a compaction phenotype. The chromosome shows speed-dependent extension during translocation suggesting the DNA polymer is under tension. While DNA segregation is highly reliable and succeeds in virtually all wild-type cells, the high degree of cell to cell variation in the segregation process is noteworthy.