q&more
My watch list
my.chemie.de  
Login  

News

Inner “clockwork” sets the time for cell division in bacteria

University of Basel, Swiss Nanoscience Institute/Biozentrum

The signaling molecule c-di-GMP controls cell division in Caulobacter crescentus.

12-Feb-2020: Researchers at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel have discovered a “clockwork” mechanism that controls cell division in bacteria. In two publications, in “Nature Communications” und “PNAS”, they report how a small signaling molecule starts the “clock”, which informs the cell about the right time to reproduce.

The ability of pathogens to multiply in the host is crucial for the spread of infections. The speed of bacterial division greatly depends on the environmental conditions. Under unfavorable conditions, such as nutrient deficiency, bacteria tend to pause after division and reproduce more slowly. But how do bacteria know, when it is time to enter the next round of cell division?

A team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, led by Prof. Urs Jenal has now identified a central switch for reproduction in the model bacterium Caulobacter crescentus: the signaling molecule c-di-GMP. In their current study, published in the journal Nature Communications, they report that this molecule initiates a “clock-like” mechanism, which determines whether individual bacteria reproduce.

A signaling molecule regulates “clockwork” in bacteria

How long a cell pauses after division and how it then decides to engage in the next round of division is still poorly understood. The signaling molecule c-di-GMP plays a key role in this process. “The rise in the c-di-GMP level sets the individual cogwheels of the cell’s clock into action, one after the other,” explains Jenal. “These cogwheels are enzymes called kinases. They prepare the transition of the cell from the resting to the division phase.”

Enzymes respond to c-di-GMP levels

Under favorable living conditions, newborn bacteria begin to produce the signaling molecule – this starts the clock ticking. The initially low c-di-GMP level activates a first kinase. This activates the expression of over 100 genes, which drive the cell towards division and boost the production of c-di-GMP.

The resulting peak levels of c-di-GMP finally stimulate the last wheel of the machinery, also a kinase. “With this step, the cell ultimately decides to replicate its DNA and to trigger cell division,” explains Jenal. “Simultaneously the over 100 genes are switched off again, as these are only important for the transition phase but obstruct later stages of proliferation.”

Insights into c-di-GMP mediated enzyme activation

In a parallel study, recently been published in PNAS, a team led by Prof. Tilman Schirmer, also at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, describes how c-di-GMP activates the first cogwheel of the newly discovered clock at the atomic level.

The researchers have revealed that the mobile domains of the kinase are initially locked in a fixed position. The binding of c-di-GMP liberates the domains, thereby activating the kinase for gene expression. “In our study, we have discovered a new mode of c-di-GMP mediated activation,” says Schirmer. “Once again, we are fascinated by the diverse ʻstrategiesʼ of this small molecule to regulate biochemical processes.”

Universal principle in bacterial reproduction

The c-di-GMP regulated timing of the bacterial cell cycle by this signaling molecule seems to be a universal mechanism. The researchers assume that this mechanism enables bacteria to precisely coordinate growth and development. The elucidation of this novel mechanism also contributes to a better understanding of the growth of bacterial pathogens.

Original publication:
Andreas Kaczmarczyk, Antje M. Hempel, Christoph von Arx, Raphael Böhm, Badri N. Dubey, Jutta Nesper, Tilman Schirmer, Sebastian Hiller and Urs Jenal; "Precise timing of transcription by c-di-GMP coordinates cell cycle and morphogenesis in Caulobacter"; Nature Communications; 2020.
Badri N. Dubey, Elia Agustoni, Raphael Böhm, Andreas Kaczmarczyk, Francesca Mangia, Christoph von Arx, Urs Jenal, Sebastian Hiller, Iván Plaza-Menacho, and Tilman Schirmer; "Hybrid histidine kinase activation by cyclic di-GMP–mediated domain liberation"; PNAS; 2020.

Facts, background information, dossiers

  • cell division
  • bacteria
  • Caulobacter crescentus

More about Universität Basel

  • News

    Perturbation-free studies of single molecules

    Researchers of the University of Basel have developed a new method with which individual isolated molecules can be studied precisely – without destroying the molecule or even influencing its quantum state. This highly sensitive technique for probing molecules is widely applicable and paves ... more

    Virtual screening for active substances against the coronavirus

    The University of Basel is part of the global search for a drug to fight the rampant coronavirus. Researchers in the Computational Pharmacy group have so far virtually tested almost 700 million substances, targeting a specific site on the virus – with the aim of inhibiting its multiplicatio ... more

    Kiss and run: How cells sort and recycle their components

    What can be reused and what can be disposed of? Cells also face this tricky task. Researchers from the Biozentrum of the University of Basel have now discovered a cellular machine, called FERARI, that sorts out usable proteins for recycling. In Nature Cell Biology, they explain how FERARI w ... more

q&more – the networking platform for quality excellence in lab and process

The q&more concept is to increase the visibility of recent research and innovative solutions, and support the exchange of knowledge. In the broad spectrum of subjects covered, the focus is on achieving maximum quality in highly innovative sectors. As a modern knowledge platform, q&more offers market participants one-of-a-kind networking opportunities. Cutting-edge research is presented by authors of international repute. Attractively presented in a high-quality context, and published in German and English, the original articles introduce new concepts and highlight unconventional solution strategies.

> more about q&more

q&more is supported by:

 

Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE