ParB protein of Pseudomonas aeruginosa belongs to a widely represented ParB family of chromosomally and plasmid-encoded partitioning type IA proteins. Ten putative parS sites are dispersed in the P. aeruginosa chromosome, with eight of them localizing in the oriC domain. After binding to parS, ParB spreads on the DNA, causing transcriptional silencing of nearby genes (A. A. Bartosik et al., J. Bacteriol. 186:6983-6998, 2004). We have studied ParB derivatives impaired in spreading either due to loss of DNA-binding ability or oligomerization. We defined specific determinants outside of the helix-turn-helix motif responsible for DNA binding. Analysis confirmed the localization of the main dimerization domain in the C terminus of ParB but also mapped another self-interactive domain in the N-terminal domain. Reverse genetics were used to introduce five parB alleles impaired in spreading into the P. aeruginosa chromosome. The single amino acid substitutions in ParB causing a defect in oligomerization but not in DNA binding caused a chromosome segregation defect, slowed the growth rate, and impaired motilities, similarly to the pleiotropic phenotype of parB-null mutants, indicating that the ability to spread is vital for ParB function in the cell. The toxicity of ParB overproduction in Pseudomonas spp. is not due to the spreading since several ParB derivatives defective in oligomerization were still toxic for P. aeruginosa when provided in excess.
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