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Loss of PopZAt activity in Agrobacterium tumefaciens by Deletion or Depletion Leads to Multiple Growth Poles, Minicells, and Growth Defects


Agrobacterium tumefaciens grows by addition of peptidoglycan (PG) at one pole of the bacterium. During the cell cycle, the cell needs to maintain two different developmental programs, one at the growth pole and another at the inert old pole. Proteins involved in this process are not yet well characterized. To further characterize the role of pole-organizing protein A. tumefaciens PopZ (PopZ At ), we created deletions of the five PopZ At domains and assayed their localization. In addition, we created a popZAt deletion strain (ΔpopZAt ) that exhibited growth and cell division defects with ectopic growth poles and minicells, but the strain is unstable. To overcome the genetic instability, we created an inducible PopZ At strain by replacing the native ribosome binding site with a riboswitch. Cultivated in a medium without the inducer theophylline, the cells look like ΔpopZAt cells, with a branching and minicell phenotype. Adding theophylline restores the wild-type (WT) cell shape. Localization experiments in the depleted strain showed that the domain enriched in proline, aspartate, and glutamate likely functions in growth pole targeting. Helical domains H3 and H4 together also mediate polar localization, but only in the presence of the WT protein, suggesting that the H3 and H4 domains multimerize with WT PopZ At , to stabilize growth pole accumulation of PopZ AtIMPORTANCEAgrobacterium tumefaciens is a rod-shaped bacterium that grows by addition of PG at only one pole. The factors involved in maintaining cell asymmetry during the cell cycle with an inert old pole and a growing new pole are not well understood. Here we investigate the role of PopZ At , a homologue of Caulobacter crescentus PopZ (PopZ Cc ), a protein essential in many aspects of pole identity in C. crescentus We report that the loss of PopZ At leads to the appearance of branching cells, minicells, and overall growth defects. As many plant and animal pathogens also employ polar growth, understanding this process in A. tumefaciens may lead to the development of new strategies to prevent the proliferation of these pathogens. In addition, studies of A. tumefaciens will provide new insights into the evolution of the genetic networks that regulate bacterial polar growth and cell division.

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