CTP switches in ParABS-mediated bacterial chromosome segregation and beyond.

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Segregation of genetic material is a fundamental process in biology. In many bacterial species, segregation of chromosomes and low-copy plasmids is facilitated by the tripartite ParA-ParB-parS system. This system consists of a centromeric parS DNA site and interacting proteins ParA and ParB that are capable of hydrolyzing adenosine triphosphate and cytidine triphosphate (CTP), respectively. ParB first binds to parS before associating with adjacent DNA regions to spread outward from parS. These ParB-DNA complexes bind to ParA and, through repetitive cycles of ParA-ParB binding and unbinding, move the DNA cargo to each daughter cell. The recent discovery that ParB binds and hydrolyzes CTP as it cycles on and off the bacterial chromosome has dramatically changed our understanding of the molecular mechanism used by the ParABS system. Beyond bacterial chromosome segregation, CTP-dependent molecular switches are likely to be more widespread in biology than previously appreciated and represent an opportunity for new and unexpected avenues for future research and application.