The conserved DNA binding protein WhiA influences chromosome segregation in Bacillus subtilis

Laura C. Bohorquez, Katarina Surdova, Martijs J. Jonker, Leendert W. Hamoen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The DNA binding protein WhiA is conserved in Gram-positive bacteria and is present in the genetically simple cell wall-lacking mycoplasmas. The protein shows homology to eukaryotic homing endonucleases but lacks nuclease activity. WhiA was first characterized in streptomycetes, where it regulates the expression of key differentiation genes, including the cell division gene ftsZ, which is essential for sporulation. For Bacillus subtilis, it was shown that WhiA is essential when certain cell division genes are deleted. However, in B. subtilis, WhiA is not required for sporulation, and it does not seem to function as a transcription factor, despite its DNA binding activity. The exact function of B. subtilis WhiA remains elusive. We noticed that whiA mutants show an increased space between their nucleoids, and here, we describe the results of fluorescence microscopy, genetic, and transcriptional experiments to further investigate this phenomenon. It appeared that the deletion of whiA is synthetic lethal when either the DNA replication and segregation regulator ParB or the DNA replication inhibitor YabA is absent. However, WhiA does not seem to affect replication initiation. We found that a ΔwhiA mutant is highly sensitive for DNA-damaging agents. Further tests revealed that the deletion of parAB induces the SOS response, including the cell division inhibitor YneA. When yneA was inactivated, the viability of the synthetic lethal ΔwhiA ΔparAB mutant was restored. However, the nucleoid segregation phenotype remained. These findings underline the importance of WhiA for cell division and indicate that the protein also plays a role in DNA segregation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00633-17
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Cell division
  • Chromosome segregation
  • RecA
  • WhiA
  • YneA


Dive into the research topics of 'The conserved DNA binding protein WhiA influences chromosome segregation in Bacillus subtilis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this