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DNA Segregation Under Par Protein Control

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The spatial organization of DNA is mediated by the Par protein system in some bacteria. ParB binds specifically to the parS sequence on DNA and orchestrates its motion by interacting with ParA bound to the nucleoid. In the case of plasmids, a single ParB bound plasmid is observed to execute oscillations between cell poles while multiple plasmids eventually settle at equal distances from each other along the cell’s length. While the potential mechanism underlying the ParA-ParB interaction has been discussed, it remains unclear whether ParB-complex oscillations are stable limit cycles or merely decaying transients to a fixed point. How are dynamics affected by substrate length and the number of complexes? We present a deterministic model for ParA-ParB driven DNA segregation where the transition between stable arrangements and oscillatory behaviour depends only on five parameters: ParB-complex number, substrate length, ParA concentration, ParA hydrolysis rate and the ratio of the lengthscale over which the ParB complex stimulates ParA hydrolysis to the lengthscale over which ParA interacts with the ParB complex. When the system is buffered and the ParA rebinding rate is constant we find that ParB-complex dynamics is independent of substrate length and complex number above a minimum system size. Conversely, when ParA resources are limited, we find that changing substrate length and increasing complex number leads to counteracting mechanisms that can both generate or subdue oscillatory dynamics. We argue that cells may be poised near a critical level of ParA so that they can transition from oscillatory to fixed point dynamics as the cell cycle progresses so that they can both measure their size and faithfully partition their genetic material. Lastly, we show that by modifying the availability of ParA or depletion zone size, we can capture some of the observed differences in ParB-complex positioning between replicating chromosomes in B. subtilis cells and low-copy plasmids in E. coli cells.
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Jindal L, Emberly E (2019) DNA segregation under Par protein control. PLoS ONE 14(7): e0218520. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0218520
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DNA segregation under Par protein control
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