Fumeaux C, Radhakrishnan SK, Ardissone S, Théraulaz L, Frandi A, Martins D, Nesper J, Abel S, Jenal U, Viollier PH
Zinc-finger domain transcriptional regulators regulate a myriad of functions in eukaryotes. Interestingly, ancestral versions (MucR) from Alpha-proteobacteria control bacterial virulence/symbiosis. Whether virulence regulators can also control cell cycle transcription is unknown. Here we report that MucR proteins implement a hitherto elusive primordial S→G1 transcriptional switch. After charting G1-specific promoters in the cell cycle model Caulobacter crescentus by comparative ChIP-seq, we use one such promoter as genetic proxy to unearth two MucR paralogs, MucR1/2, as constituents of a quadripartite and homeostatic regulatory module directing the S→G1 transcriptional switch. Surprisingly, MucR orthologues that regulate virulence and symbiosis gene transcription in Brucella, Agrobacterium or Sinorhizobium support this S→G1 switch in Caulobacter. Pan-genomic ChIP-seq analyses in Sinorhizobium and Caulobacter show that this module indeed targets orthologous genes. We propose that MucR proteins and possibly other virulence regulators primarily control bacterial cell cycle (G1-phase) transcription, rendering expression of target (virulence) genes periodic and in tune with the cell cycle.