Phosphotransferase-dependent accumulation of (p)ppGpp in response to glutamine deprivation in Caulobacter crescentus

Séverin Ronneau, Kenny Petit, Xavier De Bolle, Régis Hallez

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The alarmone (p)ppGpp is commonly used by bacteria to quickly respond to nutrient starvation. Although (p)ppGpp synthetases such as SpoT have been extensively studied, little is known about the molecular mechanisms stimulating alarmone synthesis upon starvation. Here, we describe an essential role of the nitrogen-related phosphotransferase system (PTSNtr) in controlling (p)ppGpp accumulation in Caulobacter crescentus. We show that cells sense nitrogen starvation by way of detecting glutamine deprivation using the first enzyme (EINtr) of PTSNtr. Decreasing intracellular glutamine concentration triggers phosphorylation of EINtr and its downstream components HPr and EIIANtr. Once phosphorylated, both HPr~P and EIIANtr~P stimulate (p)ppGpp accumulation by modulating SpoT activities. This burst of second messenger primarily impacts the non-replicative phase of the cell cycle by extending the G1 phase. This work highlights a new role for bacterial PTS systems in stimulating (p)ppGpp accumulation in response to metabolic cues and in controlling cell cycle progression and cell growth.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11423
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2016


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