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Partitioning systems ensure the stable inheritance of bacterial low-copy-number replicons, such as chromosomes, chromids, and megaplasmids. These loci consist of two genes encoding partition proteins A and B, and at least one parS centromere-like sequence. In chromids and megaplasmids, partitioning systems are often located in the vicinity of replication systems. An extreme example of this co-localization are alphaproteobacterial repABC replicons, where the partition (repAB) and replication (repC) genes form a single operon, with parS sequences usually positioned in close proximity to these genes. In this study, we characterized a more complex repABC system found in Paracoccus aminophilus (Rhodobacterales) megaplasmid pAMI4 (438 kb). Besides the repABC operon with a single parS site, this replicon has a 2-kb non-coding locus positioned 11.5 kb downstream of repC, which contains three additional parS repeats (3parS). We demonstrated that 3parS is bound by partition protein B in vitro and is essential for proper pAMI4 partitioning in vivo. In search of similar loci, we conducted a comparative analysis of parS distribution in other repABC replicons. This revealed different patterns of parS localization in Rhodobacterales and Rhizobiales. However, in both these taxonomic orders, parS sites are almost always located inside or close to the repABC operon. No other 3parS-like loci were found in the closest relatives of pAMI4. Another evolutionarily-independent example of such a locus was identified as a conserved feature in chromosome 2 of Allorhizobium vitis and related replicons. IMPORTANCE The repABC replication/partitioning loci are widespread in extrachromosomal replicons of Alphaproteobacteria. They are evolutionarily diverse, subject to multi-layer self-regulation, and are responsible for the maintenance of different types of replicons, such as plasmids (e.g., Agrobacterium pTi and pRi tumorigenic and rhizogenic plasmids), megaplasmids (e.g., Sinorhizobium pSymA and pSymB) and essential chromids (e.g., secondary chromosomes of Agrobacterium, Brucella and Rhodobacter). In this study, we functionally analyzed an atypical partition-related component of repABC systems, the 3parS locus, found in the P. aminophilus megaplasmid pAMI4. We also identified parS centromere-like site distribution patterns in different groups of repABC replicons and found other unrelated 3parS-like loci, which had been overlooked. Our findings raise questions concerning the biological reasons for differential parS distribution, which may reflect variations in repABC operon regulation as well as different replication and partition modes of replicons belonging to the repABC family.


Jakub Czarnecki, Elvira Chapkauskaitse, Julia Bos, Dorota Sentkowska, Paweł Wawrzyniak, Agnieszka Wyszyńska, Magdalena Szuplewska, Dariusz Bartosik. Differential Localization and Functional Specialization of parS Centromere-Like Sites in repABC Replicons of Alphaproteobacteria. Applied and environmental microbiology. 2022 Apr 26;88(8):e0020722

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PMID: 35389251

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