Learning from the master: Targets and functions of the CtrA response regulator in Brucella abortus and other alpha-proteobacteria

Katy Poncin, Sébastien Gillet, Xavier De Bolle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The α-proteobacteria are a fascinating group of free-living, symbiotic and pathogenic organisms, including the Brucella genus, which is responsible for a worldwide zoonosis. One common feature of α-proteobacteria is the presence of a conserved response regulator called CtrA, first described in the model bacterium Caulobacter crescentus, where it controls gene expression at different stages of the cell cycle. Here, we focus on Brucella abortus and other intracellular α-proteobacteria in order to better assess the potential role of CtrA in the infectious context. Comparative genomic analyses of the CtrA control pathway revealed the conservation of specific modules, as well as the acquisition of new factors during evolution. The comparison of CtrA regulons also suggests that specific clades of α-proteobacteria acquired distinct functions under its control, depending on the essentiality of the transcription factor. Other CtrA-controlled functions, for instance motility and DNA repair, are proposed to be more ancestral. Altogether, these analyses provide an interesting example of the plasticity of a regulation network, subject to the constraints of inherent imperatives such as cell division and the adaptations to diversified environmental niches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)500-513
Number of pages14
JournalFEMS microbiology reviews
Issue number4
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • CtrA
  • Brucella
  • cell cycle
  • alpha-proteobacteria
  • infection
  • regulation network evolution

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