Relief of ParB autoinhibition by parS DNA catalysis and ParB recycling by CTP hydrolysis promote bacterial centromere assembly.
Three-component ParABS systems are widely distributed factors for plasmid partitioning and chromosome segregation in bacteria. ParB protein acts as an adaptor between the 16 bp centromeric parS DNA sequences and the DNA segregation ATPase ParA. It accumulates at high concentrations at and near a parS site by assembling a partition complex. ParB dimers form a DNA sliding clamp whose closure at parS requires CTP binding. The mechanism underlying ParB loading and the role of CTP hydrolysis however remain unclear. We show that CTP hydrolysis is dispensable for Smc recruitment to parS sites in Bacillus subtilis but is essential for chromosome segregation by ParABS in the absence of Smc. Our results suggest that CTP hydrolysis contributes to partition complex assembly via two mechanisms. It recycles off-target ParB clamps to allow for new attempts at parS targeting and it limits the extent of spreading from parS by promoting DNA unloading. We also propose a model for how parS DNA catalyzes ParB clamp closure involving a steric clash between ParB protomers binding to opposing parS half sites.