Control of DNA replication initiation is essential for bacterial cells to co-ordinate the faithful replication and segregation of their genetic material. The Bacillus subtilis ATPase Soj is a dynamic protein that regulates DNA replication initiation by either inhibiting or activating the DNA replication initiator protein DnaA. Here we report that the key event which switches Soj regulatory activity is a transition in its oligomeric state from a monomer to an ATP-dependent homodimer capable of DNA binding. We show that the DNA binding activity of the Soj dimer is required both for activation of DNA replication initiation and for interaction with Spo0J. Finally, we demonstrate that Spo0J inhibits Soj dimerization by stimulating Soj ATPase activity. The data provide a molecular explanation for the dichotomous regulatory activities of Soj, as well as assigning unique Soj conformations to distinct cellular localization patterns. We discuss how the regulation of Soj ATPase activity by Spo0J could be utilized to control the initiation of DNA replication during the cell cycle.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.