Escherichia coli sister chromosome separation includes an abrupt global transition with concomitant release of late-splitting intersister snaps

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Feb 15;108(7):2765-70. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1019593108. Epub 2011 Jan 31.


The basis for segregation of sister chromosomes in bacteria is not established. We show here that two discrete ~150-kb regions, both located early in the right replichore, exhibit prolonged juxtaposition of sister loci, for 20 and 30 min, respectively, after replication. Flanking regions, meanwhile, separate. Thus, the two identified regions comprise specialized late-splitting intersister connections or snaps. Sister snap loci separate simultaneously in both snap regions, concomitant with a major global nucleoid reorganization that results in emergence of a bilobed nucleoid morphology. Split snap loci move rapidly apart to a separation distance comparable with one-half the length of the nucleoid. Concomitantly, at already split positions, sister loci undergo further separation to a comparable distance. The overall consequence of these and other effects is that thus far replicated sister chromosomes become spatially separated (individualized) into the two nucleoid lobes, while the terminus region (and likely, all unreplicated portions of the chromosome) moves to midcell. These and other findings imply that segregation of Escherichia coli sister chromosomes is not a smooth continuous process but involves at least one and likely, two major global transition(s). The presented patterns further suggest that accumulation of internal intranucleoid forces and constraining of these forces by snaps play central roles in global chromosome dynamics. They are consistent with and supportive of our previous proposals that individualization of sisters in E. coli is driven primarily by internally generated pushing forces and is directly analogous to sister individualization at the prophase to prometaphase transition of the eukaryotic cell cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Segregation / genetics
  • Chromosome Segregation / physiology*
  • Chromosomes, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Models, Genetic
  • Time Factors