Background: Complex regulatory circuits in biology are often built of simpler subcircuits or modules. In most cases, the functional consequences and evolutionary origins of modularity remain poorly defined. Results: Here, by combining single-cell microscopy with genetic approaches, we demonstrate that two separable modules independently govern the temporal and spatial control of DNA replication in the asymmetrically dividing bacterium Caulobacter crescentus. DNA replication control involves DnaA, which promotes initiation, and CtrA, which silences initiation. We show that oscillations in DnaA activity dictate the periodicity of replication while CtrA governs the asymmetric replicative fates of daughter cells. Importantly, we demonstrate that DnaA activity oscillates independently of CtrA. Conclusions: The genetic separability of spatial and temporal control modules in Caulobacter reflects their evolutionary history. DnaA is the central component of an ancient and phylogenetically widespread circuit that governs replication periodicity in Caulobacter and most other bacteria. By contrast, CtrA, which is found only in the asymmetrically dividing α-proteobacteria, was integrated later in evolution to enforce replicative asymmetry on daughter cells.National Institutes of Health (U.S.) (Grant 5R01GM082899
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