Cell fate determination in the asymmetric bacterium Caulobacter crescentus (Caulobacter) is triggered by the localization of the developmental regulator SpmX to the old (stalked) cell pole during the G1→S transition. Although SpmX is required to localize and activate the cell fate-determining kinase DivJ at the stalked pole in Caulobacter, in cousins such as Asticcacaulis, SpmX directs organelle (stalk) positioning and possibly other functions. We define the conserved σ54-dependent transcriptional activator TacA as a global regulator in Caulobacter whose activation by phosphorylation is indirectly down-regulated by SpmX. Using a combination of forward genetics and cytological screening, we uncover a previously uncharacterized and polarized component (SpmY) of the TacA phosphorylation control system, and we show that SpmY function and localization are conserved. Thus, SpmX organizes a site-specific, ancestral, and multifunctional regulatory hub integrating the in-phase oscillation of two global transcriptional regulators, CtrA (the master cell cycle transcriptional regulator A) and TacA, that perform important cell cycle functions.
Keywords: Caulobacter crescentus; SpmX; cell cycle; α-proteobacteria; σ54.