Cell cycle control and environmental response by second messengers in Caulobacter crescentus
Background Second messengers, c-di-GMP and (p)ppGpp, are vital regulatory molecules in bacteria, influencing cellular processes such as biofilm formation, transcription, virulence, quorum sensing, and proliferation. While c-di-GMP and (p)ppGpp are both synthesized from GTP molecules, they play antagonistic roles in regulating the cell cycle. In C. crescentus, c-di-GMP works as a major regulator of pole morphogenesis and cell development. It inhibits cell motility and promotes S-phase entry by inhibiting the activity of the master regulator, CtrA. Intracellular (p)ppGpp accumulates under starvation, which helps bacteria to survive under stressful conditions through regulating nucleotide levels and halting proliferation. (p)ppGpp responds to nitrogen levels through RelA-SpoT homolog enzymes, detecting glutamine concentration using a nitrogen phosphotransferase system (PTS Ntr). This work relates the guanine nucleotide-based second messenger regulatory network with the bacterial PTS Ntr system and investigates how bacteria respond to nutrient availability.
Results We propose a mathematical model for the dynamics of c-di-GMP and (p)ppGpp in C. crescentus and analyze how the guanine nucleotide-based second messenger system responds to certain environmental changes communicated through the PTS Ntr system. Our mathematical model consists of seven ODEs describing the dynamics of nucleotides and PTS Ntr enzymes. Our simulations are consistent with experimental observations and suggest, among other predictions, that SpoT can effectively decrease c-di-GMP levels in response to nitrogen starvation just as well as it increases (p)ppGpp levels. Thus, the activity of SpoT (or its homologues in other bacterial species) can likely influence the cell cycle by influencing both c-di-GMP and (p)ppGpp.
Conclusions In this work, we integrate current knowledge and experimental observations from the literature to formulate a novel mathematical model. We analyze the model and demonstrate how the PTS Ntr system influences (p)ppGpp, c-di-GMP, GMP and GTP concentrations. While this model does not consider all aspects of PTS Ntr signaling, such as cross-talk with the carbon PTS system, here we present our first effort to develop a model of nutrient signaling in C. crescentus.