Escherichia coli hupA hupB double mutants, lacking both subunits (HU1 and HU2) of the histone-like protein HU, accumulate secondary mutations. In some genetic backgrounds, these include mutations in the minCDE operon, inactivating this system of septation control and resulting in the formation of minicells. In the course of the characterization of hupA hupB mutants, we observed that the simultaneous absence of the HU2 subunit and the MukB protein, implicated in chromosome partitioning, is lethal for the bacteria; the integrity of either HU or MukB thus seems to be essential for bacterial growth. The HU protein has been shown to be involved in DNA replication in vitro; we show here that its inactivation in the hupA hupB double mutant disturbs the synchrony of replication initiation in vivo, as evaluated by flow cytometry. Our results suggest that global nucleoid structure, determined in part by the histone-like protein HU, plays a role in DNA replication initiation, in proper chromosome partitioning directed by the MukFEB proteins, and in correct septum placement directed by the MinCDE proteins
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