Prokaryotic chromosomes and plasmids can be actively segregated by partitioning (par) loci. The common ParA-encoding par loci segregate plasmids by arranging them in regular arrays over the nucleoid by an unknown mechanism. Recent observations indicate that ParA moves plasmids and chromosomes by a pulling mechanism. Even though ParAs form filaments in vitro it is not known whether similar structures are present in vivo. ParA of P1 forms filaments in vitro at very high concentrations only and filament-like structures have not been observed in vivo. Consequently, a 'diffusion-ratchet' mechanism was suggested to explain plasmid movement by ParA of P1. We compare this mechanism with our previously proposed filament model for plasmid movement by ParA. Remarkably, ParA homologues have been discovered to arrange subcellular structures such as carboxysomes and chemotaxis sensory receptors in a regular manner very similar to those of the plasmid arrays.
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